The American Red Cross urgently needs both blood and platelet donations to ensure an adequate supply is available for patients. Summer is a particularly challenging time to ensure there are enough donations to meet patient needs; many regular donors are busy with summer activities and unable to make giving blood a priority. Those who are able to fit blood or platelet donation into their schedules can be lifesavers for patients in need.
Eligible donors with types O negative, B negative and A negative blood are especially encouraged to give. Type O negative is the universal blood type and can be transfused to anyone who needs blood. Types A negative and B negative can be transfused to Rh positive or negative patients.
MEET BECKY TYRRELL From an early age, Becky learned the importance of giving blood and the positive impact it could have on a recipient. Her mother was an executive director for the American Red Cross at their local chapter in North Carolina for several years and worked closely with the blood donations program. Becky and the rest of the family gave regularly for many years, until in 2003 she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a blood disorder that causes deficiency of all three blood cell types - red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Following her diagnosis, Becky became entirely dependent on blood transfusions. “I got red cell transfusions every two weeks and platelet transfusions twice a week from that January through September,” Becky recalls. “I certainly would have died without those transfusions.”
Eventually, the treatments started working and the number of transfusions Becky was receiving diminished until eventually she no longer required them. Unfortunately, aplastic anemia is not a curable disorder and Becky will have to monitor it for the rest of her life.
“I’m in the normal ranges now, but I’ll never be cured,” she said.
Becky can no longer be a blood donor because of her anemia, but she is still encouraging others to roll up their sleeve and donate. “My husband started giving platelets after learning about the necessity because of my disease,” Becky said. “You just realize how lifesaving it is.”
“I wish I could thank every single person whose blood donation I received,” Becky said gratefully. “There’s nothing more important than helping save a life.”
THE NEED IS CONSTANT On average, the Red Cross must collect almost 17,000 pints of blood every day for patients at nearly 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. As July comes to a close and August begins, all eligible blood donors are encouraged to roll up a sleeve and help save lives.
Those who were too busy to give at the start of summer can visit a Red Cross donation center or blood drive this week. Donors who gave whole blood in May or early June are encouraged to make an appointment to give again in August.
HOW TO GIVE For more information about donating blood, or to make an appointment to donate blood or platelets, please visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Individuals who are at least 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.