Cancer survivor keeps organizing blood drives during COVID pandemic despite personal risks

ORLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Blood donation is considered an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic, and your help is needed more than ever. Marie Fuesel, a leukemia survivor, is going above and beyond to help save lives.

"Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Leukemia," Fuesel said. "And I was immediately transferred to the University of Chicago. There's no second opinions, there's no waiting, I was immediately transferred there and I was put in quarantine in a hospital room for 30 days, so I can totally handle quarantining at home."

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Cancer survivor turned blood donation advocate, Fuesel said that while she's been doing this work for years, now more than ever she felt the need to step up.

"So especially now with COVID and being super careful because I'm compromised. I'm asthmatic, and anything that could upset my system could make me relapse," she said. "So I'm very important about following restrictions and advocating too for blood donations because people aren't going out. They're not donating blood, and the need for blood never stops. COVID didn't stop the need for blood."

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, she's been organizing protests and hosted six in Orland Park in 2020.

"So we had our first blood drive in March. March 30. And it was hard getting people to come; that was the beginning of COVID, people were scared of the unknown, but it ended up being so successful that then they said 'Can we have more,' and we had two more," Fuesel said. "And each time that people came in they exceeded our expectations. One of the blood drives, we were epecting 30 people to come in; 71, they got 71 donors."

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Fuesel appreciates anyone who can and will take the time to donate. She knows all too well how much of an impact one donation can make.

"I received almost 100 units of blood from donations, and I wouldn't be alive today if people hadn't done that," she said.

"Your one blood donation doesn't just go to one person, it could technically go to three people," Fuesel added. "So that time that we had a blood drive and we get 70 people, times three, that's how many lives we could potentially save."

Fuesel said blood donation is an act of giving and community service at a time when many are sad or depressed because of the pandemic.

"Donate blood, you could be saving a baby, you could be saving a car accident victim, like, you know that you are definitely individually making an impact," she said.
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