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Blood Donors Urgently Needed

Jul 23, 2021

I entered the Army right after high school.  During my five-plus years in the service, I got into the habit of donating blood at least four times a year.  My military units would schedule blood drive days, and would give us the day off if we gave blood.  It was a great incentive to encourage us to give blood.  After the first couple of times, I didn’t really think about the day off.  I just gave blood because it was the right thing to do.

After leaving the Army, I tried to give blood, but learned that I lived in Europe during a time period that disqualifies me from donating.  It was disappointing to learn that I can never again give blood. 

According to the American Red Cross (www.redcrossblood.org), there is currently a severe blood shortage. Donors are strongly urged to give now to help ensure lifesaving blood products are available for patients. Donations are needed immediately to prevent delays in patient care. The Red Cross is following FDA blood donation eligibility guidance for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination. Check the website for information about donating blood after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. It is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries.

  • Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
  • Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
  • Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
  • The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is type O.
  • Sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require blood transfusions throughout their lives.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, about 1.8 million people were expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2020. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

The Red Cross provides about 40% of the nation’s blood and blood components. But supply can’t always meet demand because only about 10% of eligible people donate blood yearly.

  • Each year, an estimated 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate blood.
  • 13.6 million whole blood and red blood cells are collected in the U.S. in a year.
  • About 45% of people in the U.S. have Group O blood.
  • Type O negative red cells can be given to patients of all blood types. Because only 7% of people in the U.S. are type O negative, it’s always in great demand and often in short supply. 
  • Type AB positive plasma can be transfused to patients of all blood types. Since only 3% of people in the U.S. have AB positive blood, this plasma is usually in short supply.
  • Red blood cells must be used within 42 days (or less).
  • Platelets must be used within just 5 days.

There is a misconception that older adults are not allowed or should not give blood.  The American Association of Blood Banks used to bar people over 65 from donating blood, but it eliminated the rule in 1978.  There is no upper age limit for blood donation as long as you are well with no restrictions or limitations to your activities. 

In Massachusetts, a person needs to be 17 years of age to give blood, or 16 years of age with a signed permission form from a parent or legal guardian. 

The American Red Cross has a website dedicated to giving blood– www.redcrossblood.org. You can learn about eligibility requirements, different types of donations (whole blood, platelets, etc.), and more at this website.  You can also find local blood drives and schedule your next donation.