Dozens of citizens streamed in and out of the Bonne Terre Senior Nutrition Center Wednesday to give blood in honor of a life that was taken.
A memorial blood drive had many of the late Bonne Terre Patrolman Lane Burns’ surviving friends and coworkers signing up to donate blood to the American Red Cross at a time when blood stores are critical. The Red Cross issued an urgent press release in January noting that, amid COVID-19’s Omicron wave, the blood shortage had reached crisis levels it hadn’t seen in a decade.
Julie Gustafson, representing the St. Louis branch of American Red Cross, said the need is still critical. Wednesday’s drive goal was 25 units “and I think we’ll go over that.”
“One unit of blood can save three people’s lives,” she said. “And we had 25 people sign up in advance, but we’ve had quite a few walk-ins, too. Not only is this a chance for them to meet a critical need, it’s a way to feel like they’re doing something positive in the memory of an officer who lost his life under tragic circumstances.”
Patrolman Burns and a fellow Bonne Terre officer, Corporal Garrett Worley, were responding to a disturbance in the early morning hours of March 17 at a motel when the gunman fatally shot Burns and wounded Worley. The gunman was killed at the scene.
“I wish I could say this was the first time I’ve seen a memorial blood drive held for an officer, but it’s my third,” Gustafson said, adding that an Illinois trooper and an Illinois police officer were the reasons for the other two memorial blood drives.
Amy Brenneke is a full-time St. Francois County deputy and a part-time Bonne Terre police officer who worked alongside Burns. She said it was the first time she was able to give blood since she kicked cancer six years ago.
“I knew Lane for 10 years, working at the sheriff’s department and Bonne Terre PD,” she said. “In March of 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and between that time and being declared in remission in June 2016, I had eight blood transfusions.
“This is the first time I can give blood, and it means a lot to do it in Lane’s memory.”
Bonne Terre Parks Director/Building Inspector Kenny Farkas just finished giving blood before picking up a bag of cookies.
“Anyone who does that job (policing) means a lot, they keep our town safe, they’re giving selfless service to the community,” he said. “For what they get paid, I’m so thankful to Prop P voters (who approved April’s first-responder dedicated, 1-cent, city sales tax), because that instantly helped those in the fire and police departments in this small town. And I just wanted to give in Lane’s memory, too.”
City Clerk Mary Topping said she gives blood as frequently as she can — she keeps track of when she can give again — and tries to stay local. She said she was amused to find out she was in an impromptu blood-giving competition of sorts with Farkas that morning.
“He popped up and asked a nurse, ‘Did I beat her?’ He thinks he beat me giving blood, because he was done before me,” she chuckled. “But I’m doing a Power Red, so it’s taking me longer and it’ll be about 112 days before I can give again.”
According to the American Red Cross website, a Power Red is similar to a whole blood donation, except a special machine is used to let donors safely donate two units of red blood cells during one donation while returning the plasma and platelets to the donor. They can be scheduled in advance at https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/power-red-donation.html.
Cher Robinson, the director of the Senior Nutrition Center where the blood drive was taking place, was asked what donating blood in honor of Burns’ memory meant to her.
“Don’t ask, I’ll start crying,” she said. When asked if she frequently gives blood, she answered affirmatively.
“I’ve got pins for giving, I’ve been donating blood since I was 16,” she said. “It’s especially needed right now, there’s such a shortage. We’ve hosted drives here at the center throughout the year, but today is especially meaningful.”
Several local blood drives are planned in the Parkland during the next few weeks. Details can be found at https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or email@example.com.