Growing up, Ross Robinson knew the type O-negative blood he and his family shared was special.
"I'm a universal donor, so I know I should be donating whenever I can," he says. O-negative is known as the universal blood donor because O-negative red blood cells are compatible with every other blood type and can be transfused to patients with any blood type.
Ross donated blood for the first time as a teenager at high school and continued to donate whenever he came across a blood drive during college. After graduating, Ross moved to the greater Houston area. Although he didn't have a set donation schedule or location, Ross would make it a priority to donate whenever he came across a blood drive at work or at church.
"I figured it was for a good cause, and it was always a low-risk proposition for me," Ross says.
Donating blood at MD Anderson supports cancer patients
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, one of the effects of business and school closures, coupled with stay-at-home orders and the necessary new safety precautions, was a national shortage of blood donations. Many cancer patients rely on blood donations at some point during their treatment, especially those with blood cancers, like leukemia and lymphoma.
As the health care provider for a large population of cancer patients, MD Anderson performs more than 180,000 blood transfusions each year – more than any other hospital in the U.S. Blood donations made at MD Anderson's Blood Bank and blood drives go directly to cancer patients being treated at MD Anderson.
When MD Anderson launched an awareness campaign about the critical need for blood donations for cancer patients, a social media post shared by a friend of Ross' who worked at MD Anderson caught his eye. He'd always known his blood donations were helping someone, somewhere, but he'd never thought about where he was donating before.
"When it clicked that I could donate and know my blood was going directly to help cancer patients, I thought that was awesome," Ross says. "Once I knew that MD Anderson collected blood specifically for cancer patients, I decided that's where I'd donate from now on."
A family connection to cancer
Part of the reason it hit home for Ross was that his mother, Leanne, underwent breast cancer treatment at MD Anderson twice. Though she never needed a blood transfusion, Leanne underwent multiple surgeries during the course of her treatment and recovery, with Ross by her side every step of the way. Leanne is now several years out from treatment and doing well.
"I know how tough it is for patients and their families to go through cancer treatment," Ross says. "Everyone knows someone who has had cancer – it affects us all. Knowing that I'm doing something to help cancer patients makes me feel good."
How to donate blood at MD Anderson
Ross has been donating blood at MD Anderson for two years now. As an O-negative donor, his optimal donation type is a double-red cell donation, a type of apheresis donation that takes two units red blood cells and returns platelets and plasma to the donor. Because this donation type takes longer, Ross usually schedules his donation at MD Anderson Blood Bank on Holly Hall Street in the Texas Medical Center on a Sunday afternoon, when he doesn't have to worry about work or traffic.
"All I have to do is give up a bit of time for something that saves lives," Ross says. "It's just the right thing to do."
The MD Anderson Blood Bank location at 2555 Holly Hall St. is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has free parking. MD Anderson also hosts regular blood drives in the community and at our locations in The Woodlands, West Houston, Sugar Land and League City.