2022 National Blood Crisis!
January is National Blood Donor Month
For the past 50 years, January has been recognized as National Blood Donor Month to remind others about the life-saving impact of blood and platelet donors. However, this year, The American Red Cross has declared a “national blood crisis” as the US faces its worst blood shortage in over a decade, predominantly due to a drop in blood drives due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While we continue the fight against infectious mutating viruses, our national blood supply is dwindling even lower. The most vulnerable and at-risk citizens, including pediatric cancer patients, are in dire need of blood donation reserves to ensure future survival. The dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants. As we celebrate and honor current and hopefully future blood donors, it is also vital to acknowledge the critical blood need we face in 2022 and its implications on childhood cancer.
Pediatric Cancer Patients and Blood Donations
The American Cancer Society reports that in 2022, an estimated 10,470 children will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1,050 will die from the disease. Leukemia (cancer of the early blood-forming cells) remains the most common childhood cancer, accounting for 28% of all cancers in children. Childhood cancer patients may need blood products regularly during chemotherapy, surgery, or treatment for complications. Cancer and cancer treatments can put patients at risk for low red blood cell and platelet counts. Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, lowering the production of red blood cells and platelets. Cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma attack the bone marrow as well. Blood and platelet transfusions can enable patients to receive necessary treatments to fight and survive cancer. Blood donations have the potential and power to drastically improve the outcome of a child’s cancer treatment journey!
Impact of Blood Shortage on Pediatric Cancer
As a result of the blood shortage, the Red Cross, which supplies 40% of the country’s blood supply, has limited blood product distributions to hospitals. The recent decline in donations has placed a sudden burden on blood banks, resulting in a limited ability to adequately replenish the nation’s blood supply. As a result, blood organizations are growing concerned that they may not meet their patients’ needs. The shortage affects individuals who need surgery, accident trauma victims, and patients fighting cancer. As commonly prescribed by their specialists, pediatric cancer patients often require intensive chemotherapy and significant abdominal surgeries to cure aggressive cancers. These life-saving surgical procedures are often all-day operations involving substantial blood loss, so patients frequently require multiple blood and platelet transfusions. In the current blood shortage crisis, hospitals may not receive one in four blood products they need. Doctors have been forced to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will be required to wait until more blood products become available. The complicated treatments needed to cure young cancer patients are only possible with a regular and robust blood supply. Therefore, it is essential to consider donating blood so that no child with cancer has to have their curative treatment altered or delayed due to the inadequate supply of blood products.
The American Red Cross has urged donors of all blood types, particularly Type O (universal donor), to make appointments to donate. Donating blood is simple but can make a critical difference in a child’s life with cancer. The donation process only takes about an hour from when you arrive until you leave. In most states, donors must be age 17 or older, and some states allow donation by 16-year-olds with a signed parental consent form. Donors must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. The more you give, the more lives you potentially save! However, you must wait for at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood and 16 weeks (112 days) between Power Red donations. Whole blood donors can donate up to 6 times a year, and platelet apheresis donors may give up to 24 times per year every seven days.
- To find a blood donation center near you, visit the American Red Cross appointment finder at: https://www.redcross.org/give-blood.html
In addition, please get in touch with your local hospitals and clinics that may offer a unique designated donor program that allows your blood donation to be directed to a specific child in need. Each unit of blood is tested and, if accepted and compatible, will be available for the particular child. No blood is ever wasted, and if the donation is not compatible or the child does not need the blood at the time, it will be released to another child in need.
Here to Serve Helps!
In 2022, we are hopeful for the future as we provide valuable aid and resources to families affected by childhood cancer. Even amid global pandemic delays, please know that Here To Serve will always strive to provide consistent support for families navigating the cancer diagnosis and treatment process. We won’t let a virus stop us! If you or anyone you know needs help managing the cancer journey and providing resources you may not be aware of, please fill out the GET HELP sheet on our website. Wishing you a healthy 2022, and please consider the message from National Blood Donors Month, and donate today!
By Sameera Rangwala
About the Author
Sameera spent 10 years in the biotech industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provide words of support to the cancer community.
All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.