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Blood, Sweat & Tears: Giving Blood Edition

Leroy Straight averages 20-24 visits per year to the Donor Center to give platelets.
A quick guide to donating blood.

You never know when you may have an encounter with the American Red Cross. Our generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission of preventing and alleviating suffering through five main pillars of work. The Red Cross is in the community whether it’s covering health and safety and blood donations here at home, or helping military members and disaster victims both nationwide and abroad. It boils down to one colloquial theme: blood, sweat and tears.

THE NEED IS GREAT RIGHT NOW The summer months couldn’t be a better time for you to roll up a sleeve. During the months of June, July and August, on average, about two fewer donors schedule an appointment to give blood at each Red Cross blood drive than what patients need. This can add up to more than 100,000 fewer donations during the summer. This seasonal challenge can be overcome if just two more donors – above what is expected – give blood at each Red Cross blood drive the rest of the summer.

If you don’t know much about the process, the Red Cross blood website has plenty of resources to take a deeper dive into how the process works, facts about blood donations and more. For a quick overview, some highlights are included below.

BEFORE YOU GO If you are a first time donor, there’s a whole guide just for you

  • Maintain a healthy iron level in your diet by eating iron-rich foods such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, iron-fortified cereals and raisins.
  • Get a good night's sleep.
  • Drink a few extra glasses of water or non-alcoholic fluids in the days before the donation.
  • Eat a healthy meal before your donation. Avoid fatty foods, such as hamburgers, fries or ice cream before donating. (Fatty foods can affect the tests performed on your blood. If there is too much fat in your blood, your donation cannot be tested for infectious diseases and the blood will not be used for transfusion.)
  • If you are a platelet donor, remember that your system must be free of aspirin for two days prior to donation.
  • Remember to bring your donor card, driver's license or two other forms of ID.
  • GETTING STARTED Donating blood is a simple thing to do, but can make a big difference in the lives of others. The entire donation process from the time you arrive until the time you leave takes about an hour. The donation itself is only about 8-10 minutes on average. The steps in the process are:

  • Registration: You will complete donor registration, which includes information such as your name, address, phone number, and donor identification number (if you have one). You will be asked to show a donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of ID.
  • Health History and Mini Physical: You will answer some questions during a private and confidential interview about your health history and the places you have traveled. You will have your temperature, hemoglobin, blood pressure and pulse checked.
  • Donation: A staff person will cleanse an area on your arm and insert a sterile needle for the blood draw. You will have some time to relax while the bag is filling. When approximately a pint of blood has been collected, the donation is complete and a staff person will place a bandage on your arm.
  • Refreshments: You will spend a few minutes enjoying refreshments and staff will provide you some additional written information after the donation. After about 15 minutes you can then leave the donation site and continue with your normal daily activities. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have helped to save lives.
  • WHY IT’S HELPFUL Your gift of blood may help up to three people. If that’s not enough, here are just a few more reasons to pick a day and make a blood donation appointment:

  • Donated blood and platelets do not last forever. Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days and platelets just 5 days, so they must constantly be replenished.
  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • About 15,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • Sickle cell disease affects more than 70,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
  • More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.
  • IN GOOD COMPANY Roughly 3.3 million generous volunteer blood donors roll up a sleeve each year. Blood donors are ordinary people – high school students, factory and office workers, business executives, parents and grandparents, and people from every walk of life. But they share one thing – a generous spirit, a desire to give back to their community and help others. Blood donors play an integral role in the delivery of modern healthcare. Many lifesaving medical treatments and procedures involve blood transfusions and would not be possible without a safe and reliable blood supply.

    Schedule an appointment and learn about the “100 Days of Summer. 100 Days of Hope.” campaign on

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.