Red Cross faces emergency need as blood supplies drop to lowest post-summer levels since 2015  

This is serious: The national American Red Cross blood inventory is the lowest it has been at this time of year since 2015. Donors of all blood types – especially type O – and platelet donors are urged to make an appointment to give now and in the weeks ahead to overcome an emergency shortage. 

Blood donor turnout has reached the lowest levels of the year as many delayed giving amid a return to the workplace and in-person learning, as well as a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country due to the delta variant. As cases spiked in August, blood donor participation decreased about 10%, but blood product distributions to hospitals have remained strong, significantly outpacing blood donations in recent weeks. 

Patients, including those facing cancer, rely on the kindness of blood and platelet donors to help ensure they have the blood products they need for treatment. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Red Cross encourages eligible donors roll up a sleeve to provide hope and healing to cancer patients.

According to the National Cancer Institute, roughly 1.9 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. this year, and more than 281,000 of those individuals will have breast cancer. Patients with breast cancer and other cancers may need blood products on a regular basis during chemotherapy, surgery or treatment for complications. Platelet transfusions are often needed by patients to help prevent life-threatening bleeding. More than half of all platelets collected by the Red Cross are used by patients with cancer.

Here are 3 easy ways YOU can help restock the shelves:

  1. Make an appointment to give blood or platelets by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  
  2. Let your friends and family know there is an emergency blood shortage.
  3. Invite someone to donate with you.

One act of kindness deserves another

All those who come to donate in October will receive a link by email to claim a free Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich reward or get a $5 e-gift card to a merchant of their choice. Terms and conditions apply; see rcblood.org/zax for details.

Blood drive safety 

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 

Don’t wait – make your appointment to donate.

“You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Have you ever set a goal and reached it? How about doubling the goal and reaching that?

Now, how about knowing that in reaching those goals you’ve saved or improved the quality of life for hundreds of men, women and especially children?

Al Whitney knows that feeling: He’s donated platelets – the part of blood that creates clotting – in all 50 states. Twice!  Oh, and in Canada and Australia for good measure.

“When people ask me why I do this, I just tell them, ‘You go and walk through a cancer ward and then come back and ask me why I do it’,” he said. “You’re not donating blood. You’re donating life.”

The spry 84-year-old began his life-saving career in 1965, when he saw a big Red Cross sign in downtown Cleveland that said, “Donate blood.” So he did. When he walked out, he was inspired: “Al, you can do more.”

So he started organizing regular blood drives in Avon Lake, his home town, while continuing to donate blood himself, every 56 days.

Sometime in the late 1970s or early ‘80s, he switched to donating platelets, which are always in short supply because that blood component only has a shelf life of five days. Every 15 seconds, someone with cancer, chronic disease or traumatic injuries needs platelets.

In the process of platelet donation, the blood clotting portion of whole blood is “spun” out and the rest of the blood is returned to the donor; typically, the body replaces its platelets in 24-36 hours. The FDA allows platelet donors to give 24 times a year.

In the fall of 2007, Al challenged himself to donate platelets in every state. It took him five years to reach that goal. “Al, you can do more,” whispered in his ear again.  So he set out to double the feat. He hit that target in March this year, when he made a donation in Albuquerque, N.M.

“Sometimes people will tell me, ‘I don’t like needles’,” Al said. “I tell them, ‘I know how you feel. But think of that little boy in the cancer ward. Do you think he likes needles?’ ”

As of his most recent donation, on April 21, Al has given 983 units. “God willing, I’ll make it to 1,000,” he said. He looks forward to hitting that milestone this fall, at the Red Cross donation center in Cleveland.

To learn more about donating platelets through the American Red Cross, visit  https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/platelet-donation.html

Editor’s Note: The Red Cross currently has an emergency need for platelets and type O blood, as hospital demand for these products continues to outpace donations. Over the last year, the Red Cross has collected over 1 million units of platelets, and nearly half of those have been provided to patients undergoing cancer treatment. More platelet donors are needed to continue to meet these needs. 

In the midst of flu, colds and COVID-19, healthy blood donors fill a vital need

By Christy Peters, Regional Communications Manager

It’s that time of year, when many of us are reaching for Kleenex, sipping hot tea and hoping our “slight” headache isn’t the start of something worse. And, as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, the occasional sniffle and cough fills many with more dread than usual.

If you’re one of the fortunate individuals still in tip-top shape, your good health could be a gift to patients who depend on blood transfusions. In order to give blood, donors must be feeling healthy and well on the day of their donation. As illness spreads, the number of eligible blood donors decreases. However, the need for blood is constant. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood and the Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood donations and more than 2,600 platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,500 hospitals nationwide, including 80 hospitals in northern Ohio.

Christine McKenzie of Westlake at the Holiday Blood Drive at Crocker Park, 12/18/20

The Red Cross is encouraging all who are healthy and well to consider making a blood, platelet or plasma donation in the coming weeks. If you have fully recovered from COVID-19, you can help patients who are currently fighting the disease by giving convalescent plasma. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation that contains antibodies that might help patients actively fighting the virus. An increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations has caused the Red Cross to distribute a record number of convalescence plasma products in the past month. In fact, our hospital distributions of convalescent plasma increased 250% in November compared to September. To learn more about giving convalescent plasma visit RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.

Your good health could be a gift to patients who depend on blood transfusions.

To ensure a great donation experience, make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you give, drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy meal before giving. You should also continue to drink plenty of fluids after your donation. In the time between donations, make sure to eat iron-rich foods such as fish, poultry, spinach and broccoli. If you have questions about your ability to give, you can review all the eligibility requirements on the Red Cross website or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Megan Coffman of Rocky River at the Holiday Blood Drive at Crocker Park, 12/18/20. “I’m not afraid of needles. I give for those who are.”

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid colds, flu and COVID-19 so far this season, please consider giving blood for patients in need. Good health is a gift – please share it with those who need it most.

A Blood Donor Ambassador’s advice for a great experience when donating blood

Prepare your body with food and extra water. Eat a meal within four hours of donating and avoid caffeinated beverages. 

Prepare for a ‘walk through’ experience. Do the Rapid Pass (the reading and the questions) on the same day. Less waiting time for all donors. Another benefit. You contribute towards more donors saving lives. 

The Donor App is available for smartphones and tablets. Safe guard your read and question/answer time. Do a ‘screen shot’ of your QR (scanning square). Avoids having to redo the Rapid Pass, again. Text BLOODAPP to 90999 or search Red Cross Blood in your app store. The Donor app has your ‘Donor ID card’ and the ‘Start Rapid Pass’. Other helpful and interesting features included in the app. 

On computer with printing or e-mail capability:  redcrossblood.org/RapidPass.

Trouble accessing your Donor app or account? Call Red Cross for IT help (1-800-733-2767). Consider the ‘remember me’ feature for auto-login.

Paul Wadowick, American Red Cross Blood Donor Ambassador and Communications Volunteer