American Red Cross

National Blood Donor Month

November 22, 2020. Photos by Jared Beasley/American Red Cross

National Blood Donor Month has been celebrated in January every year since it’s proclamation on December 31, 1969. The month of January suffers a blood shortage due to winter colds and flus, while many blood drives in the northern part of the country get snowed out due to winter storms. This month helps highlight the importance of donating blood to meet the needs of hospital patients.  

The American Red Cross Georgia will play an important role this month (as they do every first of the year) by hosting blood drives to give those in the community the opportunity to help save lives for those who benefit from donated blood.  

“There is no substitute for blood or any way to manufacture it. Across the country, someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds and depends on our volunteer donors to help ensure blood products are available to patients in need.”

Ruby Ramirez, Regional Communications Manager for American Red Cross Georgia.

Like many other shortages across the globe, there is a nationwide blood shortage and the American Red Cross makes a priority in telling the community how important it is that all blood types are needed. Not only that, but also how all ethnicities are needed too. According to The Red Cross, A patient is more likely to find a compatible match from the donor of the same race.

So who qualifies to be a blood donor? Ramirez, says in general, a donor needs to be in good health.

“A single blood donation can help save more than one life and go to help patients of all ages, including people suffering from a traumatic injury to cancer, sickle cell, or even a mother in need of a transfusion during childbirth,” she said.

Other qualifications to become a blood donor is to be at least 17 years-old (16 with parental consent, where allowed by state law) and weigh at least 110 pounds.  There are people who make donating blood a regular practice, but there are those who are scared of needles and scared to see their own blood. It is important to keep in mind if you’re afraid, remember that you’re making an impact on someone’s life. Though it looks like a long process, Ramirez says the process takes between 8-10 minutes. The staff at The Red Cross helps to create a non-stressful experience. Other suggestions during the process is by distracting yourself by talking to the staff as the needle is inserted, or listening to your favorite song with your headphones or Airpods in. Approximately 0.5 L of blood is collected. 

It’s important to have eaten something before you go to a blood drive. Ramirez recommends eating foods that are rich in iron. These such foods include but are not limited to: red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach and raisins.  “Hydration and rest are also important,” says Ramirez. “Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before your donation and drink extra liquids.” 

Photos by Jared Beasley/American Red Cross

Even in the middle of the pandemic, safety measures have been put in place to ensure safety, with staff members and donors having to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.  Appointments are also encouraged prior to arrival.  

The American Red Cross has helped people in need for decades. Not only do they help with blood drives (providing 40% of the nation’s blood), but they also help provide shelter, food and comfort to victims of disasters such as horrific storms. They also support the military and their families, veterans and distribute international humanitarian aid. 

If you are still nervous of needles, have no fear because there are plenty of ways you can still make a difference.  

“In addition to blood donation, there are many opportunities for you to get involved with the American Red Cross. You can take or teach a class, volunteer, or donate to the Red Cross mission of alleviating human suffering,” said Ramirez. You can also even help someone who needs a vehicle by donating one. The possibilities are endless.

Next time donating is tugging on your heart, try something new by being a blood donor.  

To make an appointment or to learn more about blood drive locations, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.  

Written by Tyrah Walker

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