Red Cross: Blood Donation and Trauma Awareness: May 2019

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By Melissa LaScaleia

One of the functions the American Red Cross is most known for is their blood drives.  And for good reason; they act as one of the main suppliers of blood for hospitals around the country.  In South Carolina, the American Red Cross needs to collect 200 units (roughly one pint) of blood daily, to meet the blood demand of the state’s hospitals. 

To put into perspective the importance of donating blood, here is some information provided by the American Red Cross:

Every two seconds, somebody in this country needs to receive blood.  An individual involved in a car accident could need as much as 100 units of blood to survive.  When you donate blood, it is separated into three components: red blood cells, platelets, and plasma.  One blood donation can save up to three lives, because one patient may need the plasma, another the red blood cells and another the platelets. 

Lifesaving blood is used for transfusions for trauma victims.  Platelets are vital for cancer patients when they’re going through chemotherapy, as it helps to clot the blood.  Plasma is needed to help burn victims and trauma patients recover. Red blood cells have to be used within 42 days or less; platelets have to be used within 5 days; plasma can be frozen, and has a shelf life of one year. 

“We like to have a five-day supply of blood on the shelves because if there’s an accident, we don’t know how much blood we’ll need,” says Cuthbert Langley, director of communications for American Red Cross Palmetto South Carolina Region.  “Blood is being used as quickly as it’s being put on the shelves.” 

May is trauma awareness month.  Trauma accounts for 41 million emergency room visits across the nation.  Small businesses or companies looking for ways to give back to the community should think about hosting a blood drive.  It’s a great way to bring employees together as a team as well as save lives. 

About 38% of the population is eligible to give blood, but only 3% does; American Red Cross is always looking for donors. 

Blood drives run at high schools and colleges account for 20% of American Red Cross’ blood donations. Summer is a challenging time to collect blood with schools out of session and many regular donors traveling.

The American Red Cross invites not only locals who are remaining in town but also tourists, to stop by today and help support our community through a donation of life-saving blood.  You don’t need to know your blood type in order to give; American Red Cross will test it for you.  If you do know what it is, they are always looking for type O negative, because that type is the universal donor and very helpful in emergency situations when there’s no time to find the exact blood type match.  But all blood types are needed.

Making an appointment in advance to save time is recommended, but walk-ins are always welcome.

To inspire more people to give blood, American Red Cross has simplified the process with a downloadable app for your phone called the Rapid Pass, which enables donors to save time by filling out a health questionnaire in advance.  You must be in good health, and share information about your lifestyle and recent travel experiences— factors which may impact your ability to donate. 

Minors 16 years of age or older can give with parental permission.  You must weigh at least 110 pounds.  Anybody 18 years of age or younger may need to meet certain height requirements.  To ensure that you’re strong enough to give blood, Red Cross volunteers will check your temperature and iron levels in person.  And of course, they still give out cookies and juice to help you recharge after the blood donation. 

If you have specific questions, or to check your eligibility visit www.redcrossblood.org.

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