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Giving Blood is More Important Than Ever

Giving Blood is More Important Than Ever

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood due to surgery, illness, or a traumatic injury.

Lifesaving blood transfusions begin with one person making a generous donation. The American Red Cross says just one donation can save up to three lives. Each year, an estimated 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate blood. That’s only 3% of those who are age-eligible.

Every January since 1969 has been recognized as National Blood Donor Month. While encouraging blood donation is important year-round, demand is especially great during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blood donations nationwide have dropped since March 2020, mainly due to donors following stay-at-home orders and concerns over safety and cleanliness. The American Red Cross says the safety of donors, volunteers, employees and blood recipients is their top priority. There is currently no data or evidence that Coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion.

In addition to normal adherence to aseptic practices, Red Cross employees follow these COVID-19 safety protocols at donation centers and blood drives:

  • Requiring face masks
  • Wiping down donor-touched areas after every collection
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering and throughout the donation appointment
  • Ensuring temperature checks are conducted on donors before they enter the blood drive or donation center
  • Following social distancing practices between donors including donor beds, waiting and refreshment areas

All collected blood is tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Convalescent blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can help current Coronavirus patients through their recovery. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 for at least two weeks are encouraged to consider donating plasma.

It’s a team effort to get the essential supply of blood products to Valley Health’s hospitals. The American Red Cross serves as Winchester Medical Center’s blood supplier.

“We’ve been with the American Red Cross for a couple of years now,” WMC Blood Bank Supervisor Ann Pugh says. “We are always in need of platelets. This is especially true after the holidays because collection is down. The turnaround for platelets has to be a lot quicker because they only have a shelf life of five days. You have to collect from donors almost every day to keep up.”

Platelets are tiny specialized blood cells that are essential to clot formation in order to stop bleeding. Platelets go to work when we scrape our elbow or accidentally cut ourselves shaving. But for millions of people fighting cancer or other diseases, a transfusion of platelets will replenish their depleted supply and prevent life-threatening hemorrhages in the event of surgery or a traumatic injury. Every 30 seconds a patient somewhere is in need of a platelet transfusion!

Pugh says social distancing requirements brought on by the pandemic mean fewer people are able to give at donation centers at one time. The Winchester donation center’s hours of operation have also changed.

“Healthy donors are always needed. We have our regular flow of oncology and surgical patients requiring blood and platelets, on top of the extra demand COVID has placed on us.”

Pugh adds WMC patients used 97 units of plasma in November 2020 alone, 20-25 units of which were convalescent. To put it into perspective, she estimates the 97 total units served around 40-45 patients.

Pugh says anyone who would like to donate can contact the local American Red Cross office or local supplier. It takes less than an hour to donate and can help others heal faster and live longer!

Check out the links below for upcoming events, eligibility, and information on how to sign up!

Resources

Winchester American Red Cross Blood Donation Center: Address, Contact & Hours

Upcoming American Red Cross Blood Drives

Eligibility Requirements

American Red Cross: What to know about the Coronavirus and Blood Donation

More Blood Needs & Supply Facts