January is Blood Donors Month, your pint may save a life
Published 1:38 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024
January is Blood Donors Month – something we don’t hear too much about unless we or someone close to us needs blood.
Did you know that only 37 percent of people are able to donate blood; however, not all 37 percent actually donate. Donated blood is needed by a patient in the U.S. every two seconds.
The American Red Cross is facing an emergency blood shortage as it experiences the lowest number of people giving blood in the last 20 years. Blood and platelets are needed now to help alleviate the shortage and ensure lifesaving medical procedures without delay.
“One of the most distressing situations for a doctor is to have a hospital full of patients and an empty refrigerator without any blood products,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, the nation’s largest blood supplier. “A person needs lifesaving blood every two seconds in our country – and its availability can be the difference between life and death, however, blood is only available thanks to the generosity of those who roll up a sleeve to donate.”
Over the last 20 years, the number of people donating blood through the Red Cross has fallen by about 40%. When fewer people donate blood, even small disruptions to blood donations – such as the nearly 7,000-unit shortfall in blood donations the Red Cross experienced between Christmas and New Year’s Day alone – can have a huge impact on the availability of blood products and dramatic consequences for those in need of emergency blood transfusion. Additional challenges lie ahead as winter weather and seasonal respiratory illnesses like the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 may affect future donor turnout compounding the dire blood supply situation that the nation currently faces.
Several factors have contributed to the decline in blood donors as the way in which people engage in the communities where they live, learn and work has evolved over the past two decades. Most recently, COVID-19 accelerated this decline as more people embraced remote work making it challenging to meet people where they are with convenient blood drives. Prior to the pandemic, some eligibility changes were implemented to safeguard donors, such as raising the minimum hemoglobin thresholds, resulting in an increase in donor deferrals especially among young donors (16-18-year-olds). More than a decade ago, there were also changes in blood transfusion protocols at hospitals that impacted the demand for blood. These changes illustrate the convergence of several factors that has made it challenging to keep and grow a motivated donor base to meet patient needs over the past two decades.
Blood products are currently going to hospitals faster than blood donations are coming in, and in recent weeks, the Red Cross has had to limit distributions of type O blood products — among the most transfused blood types — to hospitals.
Don’t wait — make an appointment today to give blood or platelets to help ensure people receive the care they need. Book now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).