(K-LOVE Closer Look) – Turns out there is no substitute – none – for real human blood. It is entirely unique. “Blood doesn’t grow on trees," says Rodney Wilson of the American Red Cross. The life-saving transfusion you or a loved one may need depends on the generosity of your neighbors. “We can’t make it in a lab – it can only come from a donor willing to give it.”
Since blood can only be stored for about 40 days, entities like Red Cross work diligently to keep adequate advance supply. “When you go to the hospital you just assume that all the medical care you need would be at the hospital, but blood is a perishable item.” Blood donated on Monday is often delivered into someone else by Friday. “We typically separate each donation into three parts,” Wilson explains, “your platelets could go to a cancer patient, your red blood cells might help someone who’s in a car accident and your plasma could potentially help a burn victim.”
“Your one donation has the potential to help save up to three different lives. It’s pretty cool.”
COVID-19 stay-at-home orders temporarily drove down both demand and supply, but now that people are getting out more and hospitals are rescheduling delayed surgeries, the need for donated blood is on the rise. “Each blood type has its own unique properties,” which Wilson affirms makes all blood types welcome. You don’t need to know which one you are ahead of time as Red Cross will let you know what your blood type is after your donation -- as well as confirm whether or not you have COVID-19 anti-bodies.
So what’s it like to give blood? The process takes about 10 minutes. “Most people are afraid of the needle, afraid it’s going to be painful,” Wilson says, “but when the needle enters your arm, you feel a quick pinch and then you don’t feel pain. There’s no discomfort or pain.”
“I’ve stood next to so many people on the donor bed…and so many of them have said, ‘wow, that was nothing, I wish I’d gotten over this fear years ago.”
While you must be at least 17-yrs-old to begin giving blood, there is no upper age limit. “As long as you are healthy and feeling well, you can donate blood until you’re 100.” You do need to weigh at least 110 lbs but even international travel or prescription medications cause only a temporary delay. “If you don’t know if you’re eligible to give blood, we encourage you to just go to a blood drive and present to donate -- a Red Cross staff person will walk through your own eligibility."
“If you think about how you can make a difference, how you can help your neighbors, giving blood is such an easy, quick thing you can do -- and it makes such a big impact.”
Find an American Red Cross blood drive near you: https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive