This January, the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month and recognizes the lifesaving contribution blood and platelet donors make to modern healthcare. As 2015 gets underway and winter weather sets in across much of the country, the Red Cross thanks donors for their support and encourages individuals to roll up a sleeve in areas where conditions are safe to do so.
Just in the first several days this month, the Red Cross has been unable to collect several hundred units of blood because of cancelled blood drives due to frigid temperatures and severe conditions.
Some donors have made it their mission to help save lives through the Red Cross. Year after year, donors like Michael Zapata, of Cary, North Carolina, are committed to doing their part to help patients in need – an amazing dedication that never wavers.
Zapata’s commitment to helping save lives rises to an exceptional level, now spanning 20 years. It is no small achievement for Zapata to donate platelets every two weeks. He takes four buses from his home to the Durham Donor Center beginning as early as 7 a.m.
“Mr. Zapata is a wonderful person and is very passionate about his mission to help save lives,” said Rossitza Todorova, a Red Cross collections supervisor. “We know that we can always count on him to be here for his appointment.”
Zapata realizes the importance of donating platelets – a key clotting component of blood often needed by cancer patients, burn victims and bone marrow recipients. Unlike whole blood, which has a shelf life of 42 days, platelets must be transfused within five days of donation, so it’s important to have a steady supply of platelets on hand.
When asked about the time and commitment to donating regularly, Zapata says, “It’s never more than one hour that I wait at the bus stop, and I am well prepared. I have my walker, umbrella, hat, sunscreen, water and snacks.” And clearly a big heart, too.
Zapata is one of 15 donors nationwide recently inducted into the Donation Hall of Fame, sponsored by Fenwal, Inc. The Donation Hall of Fame recognizes individuals nationwide who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to blood donation.
National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January since 1970 with the goal of increasing blood and platelet donations during winter – one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. Inclement winter weather – like what the U.S. is experiencing so far this year – often results in cancelled blood drives, and seasonal illnesses, like the flu, may cause some donors to become temporarily unable to donate.
The Red Cross urges healthy donors who have made a commitment to donate during the winter months to keep their appointments. Each appointment kept, and each donation given, offers hope to a patient in need.
Blood can be safely donated every 56 days. Platelets can be given every seven days – up to 24 times a year. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally 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.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org. Donors can also use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which is free and available for download now. It can be found in app stores by searching for American Red Cross, visiting redcross.org/apps or redcrossblood.org/bloodapp, or by texting BLOODAPP to 90999 for a direct link to download. Message and data rates for texting may apply.