BVM sister donates blood during COVID-19 as part of 68-year tradition

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, April 1, 2020

BVM Sister donates blood during COVID-19 as part of 68-year tradition

BVM Sister Marie Greaney, 87, donates blood at Versiti Blood Center of Illinois in Tinley Park on March 31, 2020. Sister Marie has donated blood regularly since she was 19 years old, but has made a special effort to donate since an announcement was made there was great need since the COVID-19 outbreak began. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Brittany Patterson assists BVM Sister Marie Greaney, 87, as she donates blood at Versiti Blood Center or Illinois in Tinley Park on March 31, 2020. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
BVM Sister Marie Greaney celebrates her 87th birthday at Versiti Blood Center in Tinley Park on Oct. 3, 2019. She chose to spend part of her birthday donating blood to give back and encourage others to donate. (Photo provided)
BVM Sister Marie Greaney in her early years as a nun. (Photo provided)

For BVM Sister Marie Greaney, 87, giving blood isn’t a new thing.

The first time she gave blood, she said, it was sometime around 1952 and she was a novice with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque and there was a blood drive.

“I’m not sure what the reason was,” she said in a telephone interview March 25 from her Palos Park apartment. “There might have been a shortage. It wasn’t a regular thing.”

Sister Marie has been donating ever around the time of  her birthday, including on her 87th birthday in October 2019. She is still donating, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping an appointment at a Versiti blood donation center on March 31.

“This will be the third time since my birthday,” she said.

Sister Marie said her father had type O-negative blood, making him a universal donor, and he frequently responded to calls at all hours from what was then known as Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s Hospital) to donate blood when a child needed it.

So when the opportunity to give blood came up after she joined the BVMs at age 18, she jumped at it.

“I was so excited to give blood,” she said.

After that, she continued to give blood, participating in blood drives at schools where she worked in Iowa, Colorado, Montana and Illinois. Then she served for 21 years in pastoral care at Palos Community Hospital in Palos Park and donated blood regularly. According to Versiti, where she has donated since 1987, she has donated eight gallons of blood just in their system.

Her three brothers also have given blood regularly since they were in the Navy, she said.

“It’s nothing we ever talked about,” Sister Marie said. “We just did it.”

Fay Spano, director of public relations for Versiti, said the blood center has had dozens of blood drives canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic because schools, companies and other sponsors have closed their doors.

Early in the crisis, blood supplies ran low, Spano said, but as hospitals postponed elective surgeries and donors responded to calls for help, the supply rebounded.

“Our donors in Illinois have responded very generously,” she said, noting that many people still need regular transfusions and other blood products to maintain their health and, in some cases, to stay alive.

Versiti Blood Center of Illinois serves 63 hospitals in a 12-county area of Illinois and northwest Indiana. There are also Versiti blood centers in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.

“The worry is for the coming weeks, as we expect more blood drives to be canceled,” she said.

Blood donation centers remain open, Spano said, and there are still blood drives happening in places that have remained open. Donation centers have added safety precautions, including temperature screenings for staff as well as donors, and are practicing social distancing between donors.

“Donors like Sister Marie are really heroes,” Spano said. “For the dedication they have to helping others.”

Sister Marie said donating blood is simple, and has a profound effect on those who need blood.

“When you read about some of the people who need blood, especially the children, the people are really so grateful,” Sister Marie said. “I see that, and it’s like, I can help there. You do it to help anyone that needs it.”


  • coronavirus

Related Articles