Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs a blood transfusion, according to the American Red Cross.
However, less than 38 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood or platelets, and only 3 percent do so yearly.
As a healthcare worker, I’ve cared for patients who required a blood transfusion. I have friends and family members who have become medically unstable and also require a transfusion. For some, this is a lifesaving need.
Donated blood is essential for people who need surgery or cancer treatment or who have chronic illnesses or traumatic injuries. Doctors can’t manufacture it, so they have to rely on generous volunteer donors. Type O negative blood is in high demand because it is universal, meaning it can be given to people of all blood types. But all blood types are needed.
I’ve seen firsthand the results of blood donation, so I had to ask myself why I didn’t donate. Almost 20 years ago, I registered as an organ donor, never giving it a second thought, so why was I not donating blood today when it can make an impact? I’ve thought long and hard about donating dozens of times but never made the time to do so. Life was always too busy.
My daughter donated plasma for the first time this fall when returning to college. We briefly spoke about how often and how much she can donate, which made me wonder what I was waiting for.
Finally, in October, I donated blood for the first time at a Tri-County Health Care-sponsored blood drive for employees. I was a bit nervous about what to expect, how long it would take and how I would feel afterward. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy donating was.
After signing in, I was called to a station where a Red Cross employee asked me some basic health and personal questions, then took my vital signs – temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, and a finger stick to check my hemoglobin.
Next, it was time for the donation. The technician explained that she’d look at my arms, evaluate the best location, cleanse my skin and insert a needle. She explained the purpose of the machine below my cot. It would collect and measure the blood.
In less than 10 minutes, I had successfully donated one unit of blood. I watched as she prepared the blood, labeled the tubes for testing and placed a small pressure bandage to my arm.
Being a nurse, by default, I asked a ton of questions. The tech was so informative and patient with my endless curiosity. Finally, she gave me a snack and encouraged me to rest for a bit before continuing with my day.
In total, 40 donors at the TCHC employee blood drive gave 34 units of blood! That’s the most units of blood we’ve donated in the past two years.
One of the things I learned while donating is that for a timely experience, you should make an appointment in advance. The scheduled appointment donors are taken before the walk-ins. However, my wait time as a walk-in was short.
I was told I’d be notified within a week of my donation being received and processed. Sure enough, about a week later, I received an email notifying me that my blood was accepted for donation and I can donate again in 12 weeks. I signed up for the Red Cross Blood Donor App, which tracks my donations, helps me book my next appointment and has my donor ID information.
If you are on the fence about donating, I encourage you to ask your friends or family of their experience either with donation or being a recipient. Donating blood is an easy way to volunteer to make an impact on someone’s life when they need it the most. In fact, the American Red Cross says that one donation can save up to three lives!
National Blood Donor Month is coming up in January. As you’re coming up with a New Year’s Resolution, consider committing to giving blood next year.
For more information or to find out how to donate, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-733-2767.
This column first appeared in Tri-County Health Care's Tri Living Well blog.