February is Black History Month, a time when the American Red Cross reflects on the lasting legacies of African Americans such as Dr. Charles R. Drew, who pioneered new practices in the collection, storage and distribution of blood products, and Dr. Jerome H. Holland, who implemented safeguards that remain in place today to protect patients and blood donors. Eighteen-year-old Kyle Jones started the new year by establishing his own lifesaving legacy as a first-time blood donor.
Jones is a freshman in college and passionate about volunteering. However, he never considered rolling up a sleeve and giving blood until his parents, who have donated blood for decades, urged him to make an appointment. “I was already volunteering a lot and thought that I might as well give blood too,” he said.
BLOOD DONATION: A WAY TO GIVE BACK Heading into the blood donor center, the young man admitted to being nervous. However, once he arrived, the support of a kind phlebotomist eased any lingering fears and comforted him throughout the donation process.
“On the way it was nerve wracking because I had never donated blood. But once I got there, I was offered a drink and snack. One lady talked to me the whole time so I wouldn’t be nervous, I wish I knew her name. I cracked a few jokes—it was fun talking to her,” Jones said. “They monitored me to make sure I was okay after the donation, and then it was over. I was free to go.”
As the last member of his immediate family to give blood, Jones earned a few bragging rights when he showed them proof that he’d given. “They were definitely surprised and proud when I showed them that I made my first donation,” he said.
Openly sharing his donation experience with friends was significant. The conversation helped them to explore the idea of donating blood. Jones learned that some of his peers were already donors, and for those considering giving for the first time, he quickly became a sounding board to answer questions and emphasize the importance of giving blood.
“Some of them asked if it was weird, I said ‘No it felt fine.’ It’s not something most of us talk about. We all think about volunteering, but don’t realize that blood donation is also a way to give back,” he said.
VOLUNTEER BLACK AND AFRICAN AMERICAN BLOOD DONORS CRITICALLY NEEDED
During 2020, the number of Red Cross blood drives cancelled tripled compared to the year prior—mostly due to the pandemic—significantly impacting the collection of lifesaving blood donations from the Black community. During Black History Month, Kyle Jones hopes that individuals will come together to donate blood and embrace a new tradition that can positively influence the care of Black patients.
“When people who are multi-racial and African American see other people in need, we have to donate more to make sure our people get the care they need,” he said. “It’s not uncomfortable, you definitely feel welcomed and are directly impacting the life of somebody who really needs it.”
Individuals who are healthy and feeling well are urged to make blood donation a part of their legacy this February. Come to give blood, platelets or plasma February 1-28, and the Red Cross will send you a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card* by email.** Please make an appointment to give blood, platelets or plasma today by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.
COVID-19 BLOOD DONATION SAFETY Safety is a priority for everyone, including the Red Cross. Each blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and require the following:
- Temperature checks for both staff and donors prior to entering a blood drive or donation center;
- Face masks worn by everyone at all times;
- Available hand sanitizer throughout the donation process; and
- Social distancing wherever possible.
- Donors are urged to schedule an appointment prior to arrival to help ensure the flow of donors is properly managed at drives.
All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. 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.
*Restrictions apply, see amazon.com/gc-legal.
**Presenting donors who receive this offer and present to donate during the applicable promotional time frame are eligible to receive the above described e-gift card(s). This offer is non-transferable and not redeemable for cash. Limit one (1) per presenting donor unless otherwise indicated. If a presenting donor qualifies for multiple offers, the donor will only receive the higher offer unless otherwise indicated. Instructions on how to redeem the gift card will be emailed to the address listed on the presenting donor’s American Red Cross donor profile approximately thirty (30) days after attempted donation(s). All gift cards are subject to individual merchant terms and conditions, and all trademarks are property of their respective owners. Merchants and offers are subject to change. No substitutions by presenting donors. American Red Cross is not responsible for lost, damaged, corrupted or stolen gift cards and may replace any such cards at its sole discretion. Any questions or problems in connection with redeeming gift cards must be directed to the merchant.