Throughout National Blood Donor Month this January, the American Red Cross is celebrating the lifesaving contribution blood and platelet donors make to modern healthcare. This month is a special time to highlight the importance of giving blood and to honor past and present donors who roll up a sleeve and help patients in need.
It is no coincidence that National Blood Donor Month falls in January. Winter can often be a difficult time for blood donations because of inclement weather. In fact, severe winter weather across much of the U.S. is already affecting Red Cross blood collections. About 240 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled in 23 states, resulting in a shortfall of nearly 7,000 blood and platelet donations. States with blood drives affected by the storms include Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
While the severe winter weather impacts blood donation opportunities, hospital patients still need transfusions of blood and platelets. Donors in unaffected areas are encouraged to make and keep blood and platelet donation appointments to help offset the current shortfall. Donors in affected areas are urged to give blood or platelets once the storm has passed and travel is deemed safe.
The Red Cross collects and processes about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply. On average, the Red Cross must collect about 15,000 pints of blood every day to meet the needs of patients at approximately 2,700 hospitals and transfusion centers across the country. During National Blood Donor Month, the Red Cross is encouraging all eligible blood and platelet donors to make a New Year’s resolution to help save lives by donating now and throughout the year. It’s a resolution that takes little time – about an hour – but has tremendous impact. Each appointment made and kept, and each unit of blood or platelets given, may offer hope to a patient in need.
THE NEED FOR BLOOD IS CONSTANT All blood types are needed to ensure a sufficient supply is available. Those donors with type O negative, A negative and B negative are especially encouraged to give when they can. It’s the blood already on the shelves that helps save lives before, during and after a disaster. Rh negative blood types can be transfused to Rh positive and negative patients. Type O negative is called the universal blood type because it can be transfused to any patient who needs blood regardless of their own blood type. Type O negative blood is often used in emergency situations when there isn’t time to determine a patient’s blood type, so donors with type O negative blood are encouraged to give regularly.
Families of cancer patients, accident victims and many others are counting on the generosity of volunteer blood donors. Platelet donors and blood donors of all types are needed, especially O negative, A negative, B negative and AB. Rh-negative blood types can potentially be transfused to both Rh-positive and Rh-negative patients. Type O negative blood is universal and can potentially be transfused to patients with any blood type, which is why it’s often used in emergency situations.
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.