Actor and writer James Van Der Beek and wife, Kimberly Van Der Beek, are calling on Americans to give the gift of life this summer by donating blood with the American Red Cross in the wake of a difficult and emotional health crisis.
In the past year, the Van Der Beek family suffered back-to-back pregnancy losses that each time required blood transfusions to save Kimberly’s life. Though donating blood is something James has always done, it was during his wife’s time of need that he thought of all the blood drives he had missed and how he and too many others take for granted that blood will be available when it’s needed.
“I never realized how important blood donations were until the woman I love most was in a situation where blood made the difference between life and death,” said Van Der Beek. “Every second to get that bag of blood is a big second. I’m just super grateful that blood she needed was available because people had donated.”
As the nation climbs out of this devastating pandemic and more people return to some of their favorite activities, the Red Cross is experiencing lower blood donor turnout, causing concern for the sufficiency of the blood supply this month and throughout the summer. For many patients in hospitals awaiting surgeries and transplants, battling cancer, or recovering from traumatic accidents, the need for blood continues. May is Trauma Awareness Month and blood donors are essential to the health and well-being of our nation. Vaccinated individuals can donate blood and platelets. Knowing the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine they receive is important determining blood donation eligibility.
“You never know when an emergency that requires lifesaving blood transfusions might happen. While most people associate blood transfusions with accidents and other traumas, the reality is that blood is needed every two seconds to support all types of patients in the U.S.,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer for the Red Cross. “We are grateful to the Van Der Beeks and their courage to give comfort to others who have experienced similar losses and highlight the importance of blood donation.”
The Red Cross hosts blood drives and has donation centers in most states—no matter where the journey may lead. Look for a Red Cross blood drive to help patients in need by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Those who come to donate in the month of May will be automatically entered for a chance to win a travel trailer camper, powered by Suburban Propane, to thank donors for making blood donation a stop on their journey. * The winner will receive a Coachmen Clipper travel camper that sleeps five and is ready to take friends and family on a road trip of a lifetime. Additionally, those who present to give between May 28 and June 13 will receive a limited-edition Red Cross t-shirt, while supplies last. **
HEALTH INSIGHTS FOR DONORS The Red Cross continues to test all routine blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. In addition to indicating if an individual has been exposed to the virus, it may also show if the body has generated antibodies as a result of a recent COVID-19 vaccine.
The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is also screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.
Donors can expect to receive antibody test and sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
BLOOD DRIVE SAFETY Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control. Additional COVID-19 safety precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face masks for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.
ABOUT BLOOD DONATION 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. Winner must provide tow vehicle with the appropriate tow capacity for use with the prize vehicle at all times, i.e., such as a full-sized truck or SUV, in order to take delivery of the prize (2021 Coachmen Clipper Cadet 21CBH, estimated at 5,000 pounds). Additional information and details are available at RedCrossBlood.org/SummerFullOfLife.