Irene Guanill realized how important blood donations can be to a family when she had to wait for blood for her son.
Her only son fell ill after a wisdom tooth infection triggered his blood disease.
"Being in the hospital and seeing him say, 'I'm a basic man with only basic needs,'" she said. "And then watching that they had such a shortage, even then, forget now during a pandemic, but even then, to be so stressed out about where's the blood."
Jason was a sophomore Rugby player at SUNY Platt. The strong, popular psychology major had a rare blood type and ironically, had volunteered himself at blood drives during high school at Archbishop Stepinac High School.
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"And you know, he said you have to come, and so we'd always go and he encouraged his teachers that didn't want to give blood or in everyone," she said. "If you were in his view, he was contacting you to donate blood."
At just 20 years old, tragically, Jason did not survive his sudden illness,
A "Do It for Jason" Facebook groups shows the legacy he leaves includes regular blood drives to bring together friends and family --- and fun memories around a human-size banana Jason used to make others feel happy.
"So I take the banana to all the blood drives, because Jason used to take it around campus," Guanill said. "I'm Like what are you doing? He's like, mom, it's a conversational piece. People would kidnap it. It had quite a few experiences, it would go to parties. And so it goes to the blood drives."
Donors are always needed, but especially now amid the COVID pandemic.
"Nobody wants to be sick in the hospital and not have blood," Guanill said. "It's the one thing that you can give of yourself doesn't cost you anything."
The American Red Cross says every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood and just one blood donation can save up to three lives.
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