When COVID-19 first swept through the United States last year, the pandemic caused unparalleled challenges in maintaining the U.S. blood supply.
The American Red Cross, an organization that supplies about forty percent of the nation’s blood supply, experienced tens of thousands of blood drive cancellations due to initial coronavirus concerns. In response, the organization went to work in redefining their process in order to keep blood donations flowing.
Donated blood is lifesaving. One donation can help as many as three people. From heart surgery to organ transplants, accidents and cancer, and countless other medical needs, donated blood is essential to care for patients. The American Red Cross estimates that every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
Since COVID-19, the need for donated blood is even more urgent. The CDC encourages people who are well to donate blood if they are able, and supports blood centers by providing recommendations to keep donors and staff safe.
Donors are encouraged to make appointments ahead of time, and must follow all social distancing recommendations, such as wearing masks, using hand sanitizer throughout the process and having their temperature taken. Waiting areas and donation stations are spaced six feet apart, and beds are wiped down after every donation.
No worries though, snacks are still provided, but you may just have to enjoy those crackers and cookies alone, social distanced away from others.
Town of Owego Supervisor, Donald Castellucci, Jr., hosted his 24th blood drive on Jan. 20 at the Owego Elks Lodge, and in memory of his parents who both passed away from cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.8 million people were expected to be diagnosed with cancer last year, and many of them needed blood during chemotherapy, and often daily.
In a press release, Castellucci shared, “It is comforting to know that many people are willing to give an hour of their time to help others.”
Castellucci said that since his blood drive started in 1997, the total donations number over 720, and in turn have helped some 2,100 lives.
For this writer, I was inspired to donate blood again in 2020. In July, while watching the CBS Evening News, anchor Norah O’Donnell participated in donating blood on camera, and in response to the urgent need due to COVID.
According to the Red Cross, approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S., along with nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma. About 21 million blood components are transfused every year in the U.S.
I made a blood donation in July, my first in several years. I downloaded the Red Cross app, established an account, and like the fact that I can keep track of my blood donation history. The app stores some vitals from each donation, and lets me know when I am eligible again. If you’re not into apps, you can create an account via the Red Cross website.
All donations are screened for COVID-19 antibodies, too. According to the CDC, having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 may provide protection from getting infected again, but it is unknown how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long it lasts.
Following my two recent donations, I also like that I received messages telling me where my blood donations were sent. One donation was sent to University Hospital in Syracuse and another to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. Of course, it would have been satisfying to know that my donations were kept more local, but my uncommon blood type was evidently needed elsewhere. At the end of the day, to know that I helped someone, or maybe even three people, is fulfilling.
Then for fun, I messaged Norah O’Donnell to tell her she helped inspire my donation, and as a surprise to me, she posted a photo I sent on her Instagram page. It’s my hope that I inspired many more to do the same.
If you’ve been wondering how you can help during this COVID period, consider donating blood.
Visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive to find a blood drive. Or, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Some upcoming blood drives include Feb. 3 at the Owego Moose Lodge from 1 to 6 p.m., Feb. 11 at the Owego Elks from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m., and Feb. 15 at the Newark Valley Fire Department from 1 to 6 p.m.