By Kristene Diggins, DNP, MBA, FAANP
On December 31, 1969, the president of the United States made a declaration that January would be National Blood Donor Month. For many people, the importance of blood donation may not be clearly evident in everyday life. Often, it’s only in the urgency of the need that blood donations become a visibly important part of life. The history of blood transfusion development is fascinating, and the innovation of this procedure was launched in the U.S. at Cook County Hospital (Chicago) in 1937. Since that first infusion, blood donations have saved about 4.5 million lives a year! As a health care provider, I am frequently reminded of the most amazing gift that can be given to another fellow human being —the gift of life through blood donation.
The fact is, nearly every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. This is especially important as we consider how challenging it is during the winter months to collect and maintain the blood supplies needed nationally. During the holiday season — the most important time of year for patient care — blood donations dwindle. The American Red Cross has stepped up to this challenge and has provided the framework for people to donate blood in nearly 2,500 hospitals nationwide. Now, National Blood Donor Month has been celebrated for nearly 50 years — precisely during the month that is the most difficult to keep a sufficient blood supply.
For someone who has never considered giving the gift of life this way, it is pivotal to recognize how many people can be helped with blood donations. Patients with serious injuries, cancer patients, children with leukemia and those with blood disorders and many other ailments depend on blood donors for their survival and care. In developing countries, malaria claims the lives of many children because of the lack of blood donors to replenish blood during malaria treatment. Many people already give blood regularly, and the Red Cross estimates nearly 2.7 million Americans donate both blood and platelets. While the process of giving blood is often convenient and doesn’t take long, the impact of this gift on others is life-changing. It only takes 48 hours for the human body to replenish this lifesaving blood donation.
Consider stepping up to the challenge of National Blood Donation Month this January — and throughout the year — by giving blood to your local donation center. The truth is, we never know when we may be in need of this lifesaving gift. All blood types are needed for this drive to effectively meet the needs of the people in our communities.
All you need to be prepared to donate is:
- Be over 17 years of age with a valid driver’s license or donor’s card.
- Weigh at least 110 pounds.
- Be in good health. Drink plenty of water before donation.
The American Red Cross has recently made the blood donation process even easier by providing the RapidPass option, which is an app that provides donors online access to the pre-donation process and questionnaire. For those who would like to be more involved, there is also the option of hosting a blood drive. The positive impact for the community increases greatly as visibility of this need is heightened through blood drives or by raising awareness of January’s National Blood Donor Month on social media. Whether donating blood or encouraging others to do likewise, the impact of this lifesaving gift cannot be measured and can make all the difference for someone! If you have questions about donating blood, talk to your nurse practitioner or other health care provider. Surely, there is no better way to kick off the new year than to give the gift of life!