A little over a year ago Will Wilcoxson learned that he belongs to an elite group of adults that have never been exposed to a flu-like virus called cytomegalovirus, commonly referred to as CMV. For new and current blood donors, having a CMV negative status can mean saving the life of a baby in need. After becoming exposed to the virus, its antibodies are retained in the body, while these antibodies can’t harm adults, for babies the exposure can be fatal. Only 15 percent of adults are CMV negative.
Unlike blood donation, there is no minimum age for those in need of lifesaving blood. With only a small percentage of the adult population being eligible to donate this rare blood type to babies in need, it becomes increasingly more important for donors that are CMV negative to roll up a sleeve and give blood.
“The more people talk about how much good it can do and how painless it really is-- that’s how you get people to give it a try,” says Wilcoxson, who has been a committed blood donor since 1979.
Personal Experiences Prompted Donor Commitment
Listening to his mom, a registered nurse, stress the constant need for blood donations to help the patients she was attending created an early understanding for Wilcoxson of the critical need for blood. Years later he would encounter two personal experiences that solidified his desire to donate blood when witnessing his grandfather’s health improve drastically after receiving a blood transfusion and his wife’s life saved after receiving two blood transfusions following the delivery of their second child.
After learning he was CMV negative and that his rare blood can help babies, the emotional connection to donating blood was strengthened. “Periodically I get something in the mail, and it will have a picture of a little baby’s face and you just instantly want to help because the visual is so powerful” says Wilcoxson.
Donate Now to Help Alleviate a Blood Shortage
Currently, the American Red Cross is facing an emergency blood shortage, with less than a three-day supply of most blood types available and less than a two-day supply of type O blood. The need for blood is constant and unlike many other lifesaving medical treatments, blood cannot be stockpiled. In fact, red blood cells have a shelf-life of only 42 days.
Schedule your next blood donation today by using the Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or opening the Red Cross Blood skill on an Alexa-enabled device with a selection of prompts such as, “Alexa, open Red Cross Blood Skill” and ask, for example, “Alexa, find a blood drive.”
A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), 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.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.