January is National Blood Donor Month, a time to celebrate the lifesaving impact of blood and platelet donors. It has been celebrated each January for nearly 50 years and coincides with one of the most difficult times to maintain a sufficient blood supply for patients and this year is no exception.
For Robert Harris, donating blood and understanding the importance of blood donors is not something new. In fact, the blood donation process has been a part of his life for over 50 years.
“I have been a blood donor for over 50 years. I started as a sophomore at The Citadel and later as a student I helped at blood drives to man the snack tables and direct donors where to go.” said Harris.
Harris still vividly remembers the first time he gave blood and credits that experience with his commitment to donating blood moving forward. He was a student at The Citadel when he heard there was a need for blood donors at a drive that was happening on campus.
“A couple of friends who had given before asked if I wanted to join them,” said Harris. “We walked over to the Red Cross drive that was adjacent to the Children’s Hospital. After we gave, the nurse asked if we wanted to see someone that benefited from our blood donation.”
Harris and his friends were then able to meet the father of a 12-year-old girl that was in the Children’s Hospital that needed blood transfusions.
“The father came out, thanked us and asked us to look in and see his daughter. I remember seeing the fear in the father's face,” said Harris. “It was unforgettable.”
That experience left an impression on him and lead him to become a dedicated blood donor for the past five decades. Harris has also helped sponsor blood drives at local churches, given in support of family members, and is looking for more time to become a dedicated platelet donor.
“I have always had a great regard for the Red Cross,” said Harris. “I could not always give money like I would have liked to, but, the donation of blood cost me nothing except a little time and does so much for those who need.”
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. And those needs do not diminish during disasters or pandemics. That patient could be a grandparent battling COVID-19 in need of convalescent plasma, a child battling cancer, an accident victim being raced into the ER, or new mom with a complicated childbirth.
Through our national inventory system, the Red Cross has the ability to move blood around the country to wherever and whenever it is needed most. With the help of volunteer donors, the Red Cross stands ready to provide blood and blood products as needed in response to these ongoing emergencies both large and small.
The NFL and Red Cross Partnership: The American Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals, especially those who have recovered from COVID-19, to give blood and to help tackle the national convalescent plasma shortage.
The Red Cross has teamed up with the NFL to offer those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma, Jan. 1-31, 2021, a chance to win a getaway to the 2022 Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. As an extra thank-you from the Red Cross, those who come to give Jan. 1-20, 2021, will also be automatically entered to win a Big Game at Home package, which includes a 65-inch television and $500 gift card toward food and fun so their household can enjoy an awesome viewing experience safely at home. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.
Two ways COVID-19 survivors can help
Health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic – blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling injury and illness. As COVID-19 cases have risen across the U.S., so has the need for convalescent plasma – leading to a shortage of this potentially lifesaving blood product.
There are two ways those who have recovered from COVID-19 can make a big difference:
- A convalescent plasma donation: The Red Cross is collecting convalescent plasma at over 170 locations throughout the country. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, you may be eligible to donate your plasma to help others going through COVID-19 treatment. Fill out the eligibility form to start the process.
- A whole blood donation: Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients. Make an appointment to give blood by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Kick off the year by making a lifesaving donation this National Blood Donor Month.
COVID-19 Blood Donation Safety
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are encouraged to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.
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.