Featured Donors: One Thing Left to Give
June 27th, 2011
Rainsville Couple donates blood after losing everything to tornadoes
By Lindsay Boyle, marketing intern
There are certain days in recent history that will always be remembered by those who experienced them, some for good reasons, but many not so good.
Sean Lankster of Rainsville, Alabama says that he has added April 27, 2011 to his list of unforgettable days; it was the day his town and his life were shaken to their very cores.
Lankster is not the only one with such feelings. Throughout the course of that day, 211 tornadoes ripped through the Southeast from Mississippi to Virginia – a record number of tornadoes in any 24-hour period in U.S. history, according to the National Weather Service.
Damage was extreme in many areas, but the state of Alabama was hit particularly hard. Lankster’s town experienced severe damage from the series of storms, which included one EF-5 tornado that killed 32 people in the Rainsville area.
For Sean and his wife, Miranda, the day consisted of several failed attempts to get to his mother’s house atop nearby Pea Ridge, hoping the added elevation would keep them out of reach of the tornadoes.
Unfortunately the path up the ridge was blocked by downed trees, so the couple endured the storms of the day elsewhere – once retreating into a gas station just in time to see the doors ripped from their hinges, and later in the day taking refuge inside an overcrowded storm shelter.
After one tornado, Sean received a call from a neighbor telling him that their entire block, including the Lanksters’ trailer, had been completely wiped out. Ten of their neighbors were killed during the storms.
With no cash, no home, and very little gas, Sean and Miranda tried once again to reach Sean’s mother’s home. Around midnight the pair reached the same point where they had been stopped earlier in the day and discovered that the road was still completely blocked by fallen trees
This time, they had nowhere else to go, and therefore proceeded on foot with no flashlights and no streetlights, climbing through a maze of tree limbs and power lines to finally reach safety two hours later.
The Lanksters have been looking for homes to buy or rent since the tornadoes, but have had no luck and therefore are still staying with Sean’s mother.
Even after enduring such a long day and facing such a tough recovery, the Lanksters were thinking of others. Within days of losing seemingly all that they had, Sean and Miranda felt compelled to give one more thing – the gift of life, by donating blood.
Sean has been a blood donor since high school and says that he started giving after his sister was injured in a car accident and required several blood transfusions. “It just hit me right then,” says Sean. “I needed to give.”
During the events of April 27, Mr. Lankster stopped to help a severely injured and bleeding man who had been thrown from a trailer. That experience combined with the loss of so many of his neighbors gave Sean the familiar sense of obligation that had caused him to start giving blood years before.
Two days after the tornadoes the Langsters called the Blood Assurance Donation Center in Fort Payne, Alabama to make an appointment to donate.
“Everybody needs help at some point in time, and we all just need to do that, help each other. And giving blood is a good way to do that. It saves lives,” says Sean.
Both Sean and Miranda have type O negative blood, which is the only type that can be received by anyone. Less than seven percent of the U.S. donor population has this blood type.
Sean is also CMV negative, meaning he is one of few people who have never contracted cytomegalovirus, a common disease that is very harmful to infants, pregnant women, and others with weakened immune systems. This means that Sean’s blood can be given to anyone, including infants.
Knowing that their blood was very much in need made Sean and Miranda, who have three children, feel even more compelled to give.
Miranda, unfortunately, did not meet the weight requirement of 110 pounds and therefore could not donate. She is currently trying to gain five pounds so that she can give blood.
Sean was able to give, and encourages others to do the same, saying that while he gives blood to help others, the experience can also be personally rewarding.
“A lot of people don’t know what it’s like to save a life, and they don’t realize giving blood can do that. Take a few minutes out of your day, and save a life.”
Giving blood just once can save up to three lives and takes on average only about eight minutes. The entire process, from the health questionnaire to grabbing your t-shirt and snack, usually takes only 30-45 minutes at Blood Assurance.
Blood donors must be 17 years old, or 16 with parental consent, must weigh at least 110 pounds, and must be in good general health.
While the need for blood increases during catastrophes like the April tornadoes, the need for donations is constant. Blood Assurance needs over 400 donations per day to supply the needs of area hospitals.
“The world would be a much better place if we all just tried to help,” says Sean.
To learn more about blood donation, go to www.bloodassurance.org/donate.
To find the donation center nearest you, visit www.bloodassurance.org/locations.
Photo: Sean and Miranda Lankster at the Fort Payne Blood Assurance Donation Center, after the tornadoes destroyed their home.
Posted by lacey wilson
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