January is National Blood Donor Month
A blood donation truly is a “gift of life” to a critically ill child with cancer. Donating your blood is simple way to help a child with cancer, and it only takes about an hour to do. January is National Blood Donor Month, and as we as a nation get through the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no more significant time or need then to donate this precious gift now.
The Need for Blood Donation
About 41,000 blood donations are needed every day. 15.7 million blood donations are received yearly in the United State. With the constant demand for blood and less than 10% of the population donating, the blood supply often gets dangerously low. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 11,000 children in the United States under age 15 were diagnosed with cancer in 2020. The very cancer treatments that save a child’s life can put these vulnerable children at risk for low blood cell and platelet counts. Chemo often damages bone marrow, which will lower the production of red blood cells. Many of these children will need blood and/or platelets during chemotherapy, and additional life-saving procedures that require blood.
2020, The Demand for Blood Increased
In this past year, demand has tremendously increased. Within the United States in March 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, the American Red Cross reported that there was a severe blood shortage. Over 2500 Red Cross blood drives were canceled, which resulted in over 85,000 fewer blood donations. During this time children continued to fight cancer and rely on life-saving blood to help survive.
Where and How to Donate Blood
Since 1970 the National Blood Donor Month highlights the need for blood donations. The American Red Cross estimates that 38% of the population is suitable to donate, but less than 10% do. The Red Cross provides 40% of the blood donated in the U.S., but many other organizations and pediatric cancer hospitals offer blood donation services. The American Association of Blood Banks (aabb.org) includes a list of available blood center locations. Enter your city or zip code, and a list of sites is provided. The American Red Cross also has donation centers across the country and mobile blood drives throughout the year.
The ability to donate whole blood is simple. If you meet the following requirements, you can generally donate after a brief in person health screening.
- Be in generally good health
- Be at least 16-years old in most states
- Be at least 5’4” and weigh at least 110 lbs.
- Provide a photo ID
If you are interested in making other types of donations such as platelet or plasma, the requirements are slightly different. Check with your local blood center for specific requirements.
Blood Donations Can Provide Covid-19 Antibodies
Since the onset of the COVID-19 virus, many organizations such as the Red Cross and Vitalant are testing blood, platelets, and plasma donation for the COVID-19 antibodies. The test can determine if a donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to the virus. This information is critical because it can determine if the donor can donate convalescent plasma. This type of donation is gathered from individuals who have had COVID-19. The antibodies may help patients actively fighting the virus and plasma is still very much needed while the vaccine is becoming more readily available.
National Blood Donor Month is a time when individuals can come together for the greater good of humanity by providing life-giving donations, some of which will go to help children with cancer. As we go through these uncertain times, we have seen many people make sacrifices both large and small to help those in need.
Here to Serve Helps!
The COVID-19 crisis has not slowed down the mission of Here to Serve. As we enter 2021, we are hopeful for the future as we provide valuable aid and resources to families affected by childhood cancer. We will always preserve our goal to assist children with cancer and their families so that we can help ease their burden.
By Chris Smith