March is Red Cross Month, so I wanted to bring awareness to the issues around blood donations in the US. Currently there is a massive blood shortage — there are more people who need blood than people who are donating. Please consider donating today! Blood donations help more than just emergency situations — they also help patients with cancer and chronic illnesses.
According to the Red Cross website, there has been a 10% decline in blood donations since March 2020, when the pandemic started. Also due to the pandemic, the number of blood drives at schools has gone down by 62%. To put it into perspective, before the pandemic, 25% of donors were students. That’s a huge amount of donors lost. The Red Cross accounts for 40% of the United States’ blood supply, so they’re definitely essential to the health of people all over the country.
The blood shortage really started around the time that the Omicron variant started getting worse. According to the Red Cross, this is the worst shortage in over a decade. I can’t imagine being a doctor and having to pick who gets the blood just because there are simply not enough donations.
Chief Medical Officer of the Red Cross, Dr. Pampee Young, says, “We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors. We need the help of the American people.” It’s important to remember that blood cannot be “stockpiled” or made artificially; the only way to get blood donations is from people.
You might be asking, why donate blood? There are many reasons. First of all, you get to help others and know that you’re making a difference in the world. You are literally saving lives by donating blood! Plus, you never know when you might be in that situation yourself.
The Red Cross also has lots of perks to giving blood. In addition to free snacks and drinks after donating (yum), they also usually give you some kind of gift card or reward. For example, when you donate blood in March, you get a $10 Fanatics gift card and a chance to win a trip to the MLB All-Star game. You can also choose to donate plasma or platelets, which can be especially helpful to cancer patients.
The process to donate blood is relatively easy. After signing up, make sure to stay hydrated and eat well before your appointment. Once you get to the center, they will have you answer some questions and take a blood sample to make sure you have enough iron (hemoglobin levels). After this, they set you up on the bed and clean the area. Then they insert the needle, and once the bag is full, the needle is removed and you get to eat and drink. It’s a very simple process! I’ve done it multiple times and every time I always feel like I’m making a difference. Let’s hope this blood shortage ends soon!
Hally Everett is a fifth-year Media & Culture major with minors in Health Sciences and Entrepreneurship. HE885418@wcupa.edu