Make a New Year's Resolution that Could Save a Life
JANUARY IS NATIONAL BLOOD DONOR MONTH
If you haven’t yet made a New Year’s resolution, how about resolving to donate blood in 2022?
January is National Blood Donor Month — a time to recognize the importance of blood and platelet donation, while also celebrating the lifesaving impact of those who roll up a sleeve to help patients in need.
This year, National Blood Donor Month comes as the U.S. is facing an emergency blood and platelet shortage. According to the American Red Cross, its blood supply is at its lowest levels in more than a decade, which has already forced hospitals to delay some essential blood and platelet transfusions.
Rhonda Cooke, MD, Laboratory Medical Director at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, Progress West Hospital, and Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital, says blood donations during the pandemic simply have not kept up with the demand.
“We are in the midst of the worst blood shortage I’ve ever experienced as a Transfusion Medicine physician,” Dr. Cooke says. “It's concerning to see empty shelves in our Blood Bank and worry about whether we will be able to take care of patients who need us.
“We need blood products to transfuse our patients with cancer, perform surgeries safely and take care of emergently bleeding patients,” she says. “We’ve postponed all the surgeries we can, but some of our cancer patients require transfusions two to three times per week for months during their chemotherapy treatments. Car accidents, gunshot wounds and other trauma can require large volumes of blood products, and illnesses other than COVID-19 have not slowed down. We need donors’ help to replenish our blood supply.”
BJC has been developing strategies to conserve blood supplies, as well as to increase blood donation, including among employees across the organization, through a series of blood drives in late 2021 and into 2022.
The Red Cross needs donors of all blood types — particularly type O blood, the blood group hospitals need most — to give blood or platelets to help meet daily hospital demands.
Dr. Cooke urges those who are eligible to donate now. “Only a fraction of those who are eligible to donate blood actually do, and I appreciate the sacrifice of time to give such a precious gift. There is no substitute for blood, so we need you desperately.”
Each blood donation is divided into red blood cells, plasma and platelets, Dr. Cooke says — and each donation has the potential to save three lives.
“Red blood cells are given to bleeding patients and used during surgeries. They are used by patients with sickle cell disease or patients with chronic kidney disease on dialysis, who don’t make their own healthy red blood cells. Plasma provides coagulation factors to patients, such as those with liver disease or those on anticoagulants. Platelets help our cancer patients stay out of the hospital and prevent bleeding as they undergo chemotherapy,” Dr. Cooke says.
“Every part of your donation is critical to care for patients, and all blood types are needed,” she adds. “Please make an appointment to donate today and spread the word of our urgent need for blood.”
For more information about donor eligibility, see “Details about Blood Donation,” below.
Dr. Cooke says the donation process is safe and fast. “The American Red Cross does a fantastic job of collecting blood products. It is safe and easy and takes only about an hour to potentially save three lives.
“All Red Cross staff are fully vaccinated, and both staff and donors are masked and practice all safety guidelines,” she says.
“Helping save the life of a patient is such a blessing,” Dr. Cooke adds. “If you or someone you love needed transfusion, you would want your hospital to supply that critical product.
“Don’t leave our patients out in the cold this winter. I can’t care for patients without your help. Make a New Year’s resolution to save a life — and donate blood. Please, give the gift of life.”
Here’s more about blood drive safety and blood donation, courtesy of the Red Cross:
Blood drive safety: Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions — including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status — have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org prior to arriving at the drive.
Individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to donate blood and platelets. However, the Red Cross asks that donors wait two weeks after receiving any vaccine to donate. The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation.
Details about blood donation: 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.