Summer is in full swing with school breaks, vacations and fun-packed with outdoor activities among family and friends. But, on a more serious note, summer is also the time when hospitals across the country experience critical blood shortages. The demand for blood for patients in need is constant throughout the entire year. Unfortunately, summer activities often overshadow scheduling a blood donation. In fact, it is estimated blood donations drop as much as 25 percent during the summer months. This is a dramatic decrease of something that is vital to saving lives.
According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. To meet this life-saving need, more than 21 million blood components, from over 13 million blood donations, are transfused annually. Do you realize one whole blood donation can save up to three lives, with the transfusing of red cells, plasma and platelets?
Even in a world with so many amazing medical technological advances, blood and blood products cannot be manufactured. Donating blood is an act of humanity, and we depend entirely on the selfless act of volunteers donating their blood to save someone’s life.
The hospital setting knows no season. We have a wide variety and volume of patients receiving blood and blood products daily, including trauma patients, surgery patients, oncology patients and patients with anemias, thalassemias and leukemias. Special anemia patients often rely solely on weekly blood transfusions for many years as their life-saving source of treatment.
Because blood cannot be manufactured, the blood and its components have a relatively short shelf life, requiring reoccurring donations to sustain an active supply. Red blood cells expire 42 days, platelets expire five days and plasma expires one year after collection. Even though some blood types are more common than others, all donor types are needed to assure we have an adequate supply to meet patient needs.
An interesting fact is currently only 38 percent of the US population is eligible to donate blood. Individuals who are 17 years of age or older 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. A short questionnaire and medical history is obtained, and the donation is usually completed in less than one hour, safely removing a small portion of your blood with little to no side effects. You are eligible to donate blood every 56 days, which works out to about six times a year.
I would like to encourage those who have never given blood, as well as those who have not given recently, to make an appointment this month at the local American Red Cross to give blood or platelets and help sustain a sufficient community blood supply this summer. It really is a simple act of doing something good that will save someone’s life.
The American Red Cross has made blood donations simple and user friendly now with the Red Cross Blood Donor App for computers and smart devices. With the app, you can schedule your donation, fill out the questionnaire ahead of donation with a rapid pass feature and track your donation to transfusion. The app also records your history from each donation.
So, enjoy your summer festivities, but please don’t take a summer vacation from donating blood. Lives are truly depending on you. To learn more about donating, visit www.redcross.org/give-blood
Burlin Sherrick, Director of Laboratory and Pathology Medicine, Lima Memorial Health System