CLEVELAND — When you see 16-year-old Dylan Fink playing basketball for Stow High School, it’s hard to believe that he was in a hospital bed just a year prior.
“In Sept. of 2020, we learned the news that Dylan was diagnosed with a rare form of stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” said Ed Fink, Dylan’s dad.
In that time, Dylan Fink underwent surgeries, biopsies, six rounds of chemotherapy, 10 blood transfusions, and 13 platelet transfusions.
“If your numbers are really low, you’re really weak and you can’t do anything. Even just walking to the bathroom is exhausting,” said Fink, looking back on that time.
He needed the blood and platelet transfusions to get his blood counts up.
“As a parent, that’s scary, just to hear that your kid needs blood,” said Ed Fink. “He desperately needed it and we didn’t realize how important blood products were for people battling cancer.”
Dylan Fink is in remission, but the blood products that saved his life a year ago, are now in critically short supply throughout Northeast Ohio.
Robyn Strosaker is the Chief Operating Officer for University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. She said the blood shortage is the worst she’s ever seen.
“Our teams have been working to say with our short blood supply, how can we best conserve it? Are there ways we can use just the right amount that we need and none more on a particular patient? Or are there certain patients that should receive a blood supply and we can do a different therapeutic option for someone else? We're in that point, right now, where we're really making those decisions,” she said.
Strosaker said their teams are working collaboratively to care for their patients but are in desperate need of blood donations.
“We are very dependent on blood supply to care for many patients,” she said. “From our neonatal intensive care unit to mothers who just delivered babies, to patients who come in after having an accident, or patients who are critically ill and who are on a heart-lung bypass and requiring that blood, to patients who may require some very extensive surgery.”
University Hospitals is one of 70 hospitals in Northeast Ohio that rely on donations from the Red Cross.
“This is the worst blood shortage in more than a decade,” said Christy Peters with the Red Cross of Northern Ohio.
Peters said the scarcity is a combination of several factors including COVID-19, the holidays, and supply shortage. She’s putting out a plea to the public: they need donors.
“I think that a lot of people forget that the only way we can get blood is from volunteer donors. We can't stockpile it. It has a shelf life, a red blood cells only last 42 days. They have to be replenished, and platelets, which are a component of blood, only last five days,” she said.
Aveeda Mateen is a longtime blood donor. She said she knows the impact her blood donations have on people who need them.
“It’s a good thing. I can do it and it doesn’t take anything for me to do it,” said Mateen.
The Fink family said they’ll be forever grateful for the blood products Dylan received while at his time at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“Obviously this is personal for us, but if he didn’t get those products I don’t know if he’d be sitting here,” said Krista Fink, Dylan’s mom.
They even started Fearless Fighters Foundation, which is dedicated to funding pediatric cancer research and partners with the Red Cross to host blood drives.
If you’d like to find your own blood drive, just head here and make an appointment near you.
You have to be 17 years and older but in Ohio, you can be 16, with parental consent. You need a picture ID and have to be healthy the day of giving.