The American Red Cross is calling for people to donate blood because shortages tend to occur at the beginning of the year.
Because of this, January is National Blood Donor Month. Alana Mauger, Communications Manager of American Red Cross Blood Services said blood supplies are low.
“We like to have a minumum of a 5-day supply of all blood types at area hospitals,” Mauger said. “Right now we have less than a 3-day supply of type O.”
Mauger said people aren’t donating as much as is needed.
“We need to collect about 600 pints of blood every single day in this region,” Mauger said. “We need people to come out and roll up their sleeves.”
A lack of donations can significantly affect patients that are in need of essential medical care. For example, 12-year-old Dagan Hawkins has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and requires regular platelet and blood transfusions. His father, Dustin Hawkins, said the blood isn’t always easy to come by.
“There was a time when they needed to have blood products delivered from another hospital because they were unavailable there,” Dustin Hawkins said.
Foi Dorsey-Wharton, a registered nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said it’s extremely important to give blood and it saves lives daily. She said she has seen firsthand the color in patients faces come back after a blood transfusion.
“Most healthy people reproduce blood so rapidly that they don’t miss a beat,” Dorsey-Wharton said. “But sick people, like sickle cell & cancer patients can really benefit from the donations.”
In particular, the American Red Cross is suffering from a lack of type O negative and O positive. Although, only 7% of the U.S. population has type O negative blood, it can be transfused to patients with any blood type. Additionally, it’s used during emergencies when timing is too crucial to determine a person’s blood type.
Eligibility differs by state, and information can be found on the Red Cross’s website. For instance, in Pennsylvania, donors must weigh at least 110 pounds, be sixteen years of age, and wait 12 months after getting a tattoo. Mauger said donors should be in good health, drink extra water and eat before donating.
“It takes about an hour, start to finish,” Mauger said. “You could even get it done during your lunch break.”
For many people giving blood is a ritual for them and a way to give back. Denaya Holland, a law student at American University Washington College of Law has been giving blood since she was in high school.
“I think it’s really important since it’s always a blood shortage,” Holland said. “If I’m ever in that situation, I’d want there to be enough blood out there to help me or my friends and family.”
To donate, visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.