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Blood Donation Critical During National Shortage

Blood Donation Critical During National Shortage

Every two seconds someone needs a blood transfusion in the U.S., but this year the Red Cross is experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade. The dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals nationwide to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants.

The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 units, but a car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood.

Blood and platelets cannot be manufactured; they can only come from volunteer donors. The good news is most of us have plenty to share – and each donation can help up to three people.

“We’re always in need of donated blood,” says Howard Green, MD, Medical Director of Surgical Services at Winchester Medical Center. “For trauma patients who need to go to surgery, sometimes for heart surgeries and for cancer patients, and for gastrointestinal patients who have internal bleeding, donated blood is often a life-saving necessity.”

How to Donate

Only about 3% of age-eligible people donate blood yearly, which is why it’s important to consider donating blood. Blood donation helps accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, those battling cancer, and many more. Whether you’re A, B, AB or O — or unknown — all types of blood are valuable and can help save lives.

To donate, first, find a blood drive: Schedule Your Blood Donation With The Red Cross (redcrossblood.org).

To donate blood for whole blood donation:

  • You must be in good health and feeling well. If you have a cold, flu or COVID, please wait until your symptoms are gone and you test negative.
  • You must be at least 16 years old in most states
  • You must weigh at least 110 pounds
  • You must wait at least 56 days between donations

Whole blood is frequently given to trauma patients and people undergoing surgery. The entire process takes about one hour, but it only takes about 15 minutes to fill the bag. Your body replaces the fluid volume and red blood cells within several days.

You may also want to consider Power Red donation, in which you give a concentrated dose of red cells; a platelet donation; or a plasma donation. Criteria for these donations may differ from those for whole blood donation.

You may be deferred from donating blood or platelets if you have lived in or traveled to a malaria-risk country in the past three years, or your iron is low.

“Because I’m a blood donor myself and because I’ve administered donated blood to surgical patients countless times over the course of my career, I have a real appreciation for the generous gift that a donated unit of blood represents,” Dr. Green says. “I can attest that donating is very easy and even a bit fun because of the good humor of the blood drive professionals.”

Valley Health’s six hospitals receive blood through the American Red Cross’s Greater Alleghenies Region Blood Services based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and through Inova Health Care.

A Chronic Problem

More important than rallying donations in times of crisis is attracting a reliable population of loyal donors who will keep the blood supply stocked to help victims of trauma, patients with cancer and blood disorders, or those undergoing surgery at America’s hospitals. Because blood can be separated into several useful components — red blood cells, platelets, and fresh frozen plasma/cryoprecipitate — each pint can potentially help up to three patients with different needs.

For more information about local Red Cross blood drives, call 540-662-0923 or 800-GIVE-LIFE, or visit www.redcrosslife.org.