Who ever thought we’d be saying we’re nearing the start of the third year in a pandemic? School learning and work systems have evolved, frontline workers continue to struggle with burnout, and the social impact of wearing masks and other restrictions is taking its toll on society.
But one thing has not changed: the extreme shortage of blood in blood banks. In fact, the Red Cross has declared a “national blood crisis.” Consider these facts from the Red Cross and Community Blood Centers:
4.5 million Americans require blood transfusions each year*
Someone needs blood every two seconds*
The pandemic has halted large donation events that used to be conducted at large employers, churches, universities, etc.
As of a few weeks ago, the national blood supply was at its lowest levels in more than a decade.**
In the last year, blood donations have decreased causing hospitals to not have all the blood they need. Sometimes up to ¼ of needs for blood products in hospitals go unmet.**
While it is one more thing to add to an already busy life, I’d encourage everyone to consider donating. It’s relatively easy, doesn’t take too much time (I'm usually in and out in an hour) and it can save a life. And you get snacks after donating, and who doesn’t love snacks?
Most people don’t ever expect to need a blood transfusion. As one of those people, I can tell you that without blood donations, my son (and perhaps I, too) wouldn’t be here today. After a complicated c-section to deliver my son with known birth defects, my hemoglobin levels continued to drop. Less than 48 hours postpartum, I found myself hooked up to equipment for more than 6 hours to transfuse two units of blood. My color, energy and ability to stand immediately improved; this was imperative not only for my recovery but also to support my son who was fighting for his life.
The day after he was born, he was placed on ECMO life support. It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever witnessed but it ultimately saved his life. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and is essentially a heart and lung bypass machine. Blood is removed from the body, oxygenated and then flowed back into the body. Look it up if you want more details but it’s the highest level of life support and requires recurrent blood transfusions during the process. We were fortunate that our son only needed to be on this level of support for 6 days but in that time, he needed nearly 30 units of blood. Remember he was just a 7lb. baby so a grown adult requires more. I should also add that during this same week, our neighbor received six units of blood following heart surgery.
It's so easy to come up with reasons to not donate: I don’t like needles (trust me, I don’t!); I don’t have time, someone else will do it, I’m afraid I might pass out and be embarrassed. But I also think there is a misconception that blood isn’t really needed except for traumas like gunshot wounds or car accidents causing severe injury. While my son had a known birth defect and we knew there was a chance he might go on ECMO after birth, we never thought I would also be a recipient of blood products. And that’s just it: blood can’t be manufactured. The only way to “produce” a blood supply is to collect donations from willing and able people. While I fully acknowledge that not everyone can donate, I encourage all those who can to do so – and if you haven’t tried it, please try it once and see how you do.
The team keeps a close eye on you and provides snacks and hydration, so don’t let fear of being lightheaded or fainting stop you from making a difference. You’ll be evaluated and asked about your medical history to determine your eligibility before the donation process even begins.
Here are some ways to make donating fun:
Haven’t had time to read a book or magazine that’s been sitting on your nightstand? Here’s the perfect opportunity.
Need a break from the kids and your noisy/chaotic/messy/ [insert appropriate descriptor here] house? Take some quiet time for you and save a life while you’re at it.
Two is better than one! Take a friend or family member with you to increase the donation.
Haven’t seen a good friend for a while? Instead of meeting up for a walk around the neighborhood, why not donate blood together instead? You’ll have to sit on the donation bed for 20-30 minutes anyway, so why not bring a friend to donate in the bed next to you and you can catch up while helping other people?
Looking for a day date idea? Why not grab your significant other and start at the blood bank? After donating you can treat yourself to a hearty meal at your favorite eatery. Just steer clear of alcohol or strenuous exercise immediately after donating and be sure to stay hydrated.
Start a “contest” with family and friends. Most people can donate blood regularly every eight weeks or so. See which team can donate the most in the next six months. Be sure to set up a prize agreement that will go to the winning team. This is a great way to encourage people to donate and can be done to compete with friends who live elsewhere.
The possibilities are endless. And so are the lives you could save. Thank you to those who continue to donate, even during scary times. Know you have helped families through their own scary times, including families like mine. My son and I are here today because of blood donors. Thank you for the gift of life.
Today's guest writer, Barb, is a mom to a sweet three-year-old boy. She is a Kansas native, regular blood donor, a marketing professional and spends her free time on the Lake and with her crochet hook. She's also an expert holiday decorator!