The number of people giving blood has dropped this summer and the American Red Cross reminds people that hospital patients need blood seven days a week, 365 days a year, no matter what season it is.
While all blood types are needed, there is a particular need for donors with Type O-Negative blood, the universal blood type. Type O-Negative blood can be transfused to patients with any blood type and is often used in emergency situations when doctors don’t have the time to type a patient’s blood.
Type O-negative blood donors can make the difference between an adequate blood supply and a lingering summer shortage. A drop in blood donations often occurs during the summer months when many people go away on vacation, schools are on summer break and companies are hosting fewer blood drives.
Some blood donors learn firsthand how important it is to have an adequate supply of blood on hand. Mike and Laurie were regular donors until a serious illness prevented Mike from giving blood.
When their daughter was four months old, Mike was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer that starts in the bone marrow, and moves quickly into the blood stream. “People thought what happened to Mike is so rare, but it really isn’t,” Laurie said.
AML is a condition where, in 2010 alone, 12,330 new cases occurred in the United States. Mike went through chemotherapy, requiring extensive blood and platelet transfusions to help keep him alive. The procedures were successful and Mike was in remission for 21months. Then his cancer came back.
Faced with relapse, a bone marrow transplant became Mike’s only option. During his two grueling sets of treatments at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), Mike received 44 units of blood.
“Although I routinely gave blood when I was young, as we got married, got jobs, and got busy, my donations became less frequent,” Laurie said. “Now I’m trying to repay the kindness of those 44 people (45 really, because of the bone marrow donor) who kept my husband alive and ensured my daughter would grow up with her father.”
Laurie and Mike consider themselves to be very fortunate. “My daughter would have no memory of me if not for the donors who gave and allowed me to survive,” Mike said.
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Cancer patients as well as accident victims, patients with sickle cell disease and other blood disorders and many others receive lifesaving transfusions every day. There is no substitute for blood and volunteer donors are the only source.
Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and are in general good health may be eligible to give blood. Please bring your Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when you come to donate.
Eligible blood donors are asked to please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to find a blood drive and make an appointment.