January is National Blood Donation Month! With blood supplies nearing a national low, it would be proper to say America is “out for blood!” During this global coronavirus pandemic, blood donations are needed more than ever. The Red Cross has pleaded that they need the help of blood and platelet donors, as well as blood drive hosts to meet the needs of patient care. “We need people to start turning out in full force to give blood.” That urgent call-to-action coming from Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), as fear about the coronavirus is keeping people from wanting to donate blood. Our plea to you, give if you can!
While some people may have fears of donating blood or platelets during a typical time, donating during a pandemic can add that much more worry. The Red Cross has made major efforts to have the highest standards to keep everyone safe at blood drives and in blood donning sites. This includes but isn’t limited to prescreening measures via email/text before the donor arrives, screening upon arrival for symptoms, temperature and/or other screening questions. The Red Cross also requires everyone to wear a face mask or covering. If someone is unable to wear a mask or covering they are asked to reschedule or cancel their blood donation.
If you have never given blood you may wonder where to start. The ads you see in the paper, online and around town on signs are real ads for blood drives! You can call the number you see or even easier, go to www.redcross.org to see what blood drives we have coming up in our area. Just in our Newport/Derby area there are blood drives coming up: January 27, February 9, 24, March 9, 24, 27 and more. You can even be proactive and schedule a couple donations at a time if you wish. Donors can donate every 56 days, and those who donate platelets can donate every 7 days! Those doing power red donations will be asked to wait a little longer, 112 days. Start by making the appointment and keeping it! Feel free to call the Red Cross for more details 1-800-733-2767.
The rest of the process is pretty simple. You will have a chance before you show up to your appointment to speed up the process. You can do this with what they call a “rapid pass.” Through this app you can answer some prescreening questions, so you don’t have to do all that there. With Covid still a major concern, this also lowers your exposure risk by cutting down your time and human to human contact. Otherwise, when you arrive that day you will be met by a thermometer to make sure you don’t have a fever, asked a few questions about your potential to be a Covid carrier and then you are asked to wait. If you haven’t done a “rapid pass” you will be asked to read over some information while you wait. Then…in due time they will call your name.
You will be brought to a private area, asked some questions, they prick your finger (it takes less than 1 second) and spin your blood to check out your iron levels. If you pass (most people do) they will take your pulse, blood pressure, re-take your temperature and ask a few more questions. After all this is complete….it’s showtime!
Showtime means you are brought to the donor area, where you get to lie down on a nice lounger and make your donation. The person taking your blood will reconfirm a few things, give you a stress ball (in a new protective glove so you don’t spread or accept any germs,) clean your arm and then the needle goes in. Now, these are professionals! They do this all day, every day. In just a few seconds and after a little burn the needle is almost undetectable for the rest of your donation. You will be asked to squeeze the ball every so many seconds until your donation is complete. Upon completion, they take your ball away, take the needle out (ahhh relief), and you apply pressure to your arm while they get ready to cover it up with a little gauze and medical tape. You are done!
While you donate you are basically waited on hand and foot. They will bring you beverages, ask how you are doing, lift and lower your feet or back rest. It’s a bit relaxing. Music is usually playing in the background and for some it’s a break from the craziness of life, while you literally save a life! (In fact, each blood donation can save up to three lives!) After you donate, they bring you to a table full of snacks, juice and water to rehydrate and munch. Pre-Covid many blood drives even offered you a full meal! And…most times, not always, but most times, you get a free gift! It might be a free shirt, gift card, ski pass or whatever they might be giving out that day. You just can’t beat it.
According to www.givingblood.org about 4.5 million Americans will need a blood transfusion each year which breaks down to a blood donation being needed every two seconds. They even say, that one in seven people who enter the hospital will need a blood donation – that’s a whole lot of need! Did you know more than 1 million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year? Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment. Also, even a single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood. Unfortunately, donated blood cells can only be stored 42 days and platelets can only be stored five days, which is even more reason why donors are needed and needed often.
Due to the current conditions of our planet your donation is more important than ever, in fact the FDA said this about current donors, “People who donate blood are equivalent to those people who are working in a critical infrastructure industry. In volunteering to do so, they are contributing immeasurably to the public health of our nation.” In addition, those who have recovered from Covid-19 may have an even greater impact, as their blood plasma is greatly needed and used while treating those who are critically ill with Covid-19.
- Donating blood may or may not be for you, for a whole slew of reasons, and that is ok! There are limits on who can donate. Some people may not weigh enough or be old enough, while some people may struggle with iron deficiencies or take certain medications that inhibit them from donating. Many local blood drives are also looking for volunteers too! You can help with check-ins, handing out drinks and more. Call the above number to see how you can help support the cause.
- Odds are you know at least one person who is here today because of a blood donation. Sadly, many will also have lost others because of the opposite. The possibility and reasons for needing blood are endless, but the supply is not. From a new mom needing a blood transfusion to a child needing your donation after a car accident, the need for blood is constant. Please consider becoming a dedicated donor if you can. The incentive to give is as real as it comes, giving blood saves lives. Be a lifesaver! Give If You Can.
Director Of The Wellness Center