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One out of 10 people admitted to the hospital will need a blood transfusion, yet only three percent of the U.S. population donates blood. Due to seasonal illnesses and inclement weather, the American Red Cross reports that the nation’s blood supply is particularly vulnerable during the month of January.
In an effort to encourage more people to donate blood, the Red Cross has declared January to be National Blood Donor Month to recognize and thank the millions of blood donors across the country for doing their part to ensure a stable supply of life-saving blood.
“Like the emergency room of a hospital, the Red Cross needs to be prepared to respond to patient emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days week, 365 days a year,” Katy Maloy, program manager of communications at the Red Cross office in Louisville, said. “It is our mission to ensure that patient needs are met.”
According to Maloy, the Red Cross is a national network that has the responsibility to meet the growing demand for blood and help ensure blood is available for patients whenever and wherever it is needed. When a disaster or emergency strikes, she said, it’s the blood on the shelf that can help save the day.
The Red Cross had a blood drive at Taylor Regional Hospital on Friday.
Local resident Michael Barrows, who has donated blood for more than 50 years, was one of the first in line.
“I started when I was a teenager [and have continued] because I can do it and it is necessary.”
Barrows said a bout with Lyme disease once made him ineligible to donate for five years, but now that he is eligible to donate, he does it as often as he can.
For those who are interested in donating but are squeamish or afraid of needles, Maloy says to let staff know because they can help make the donation process a less stressful experience. She stresses that the donation process is easy and relatively painless.
“Most donors agree that giving blood is not painful,” Maloy said. “They liken the procedure to a small pinch on the inner arm.”
Maloy encouraged donors who are nervous to bring items such as music players and books to distract them during the donation process, which usually takes just 10 minutes or less.
Taylor Regional employee Emillee Whitlow started donating blood when she was 17, and has continued to do so for the last eight years.
“It’s just for a good cause,” Whitlow said. “I had a family member that had to have a blood transfusion.”
While some donors may experience lightheadedness or dizziness, Maloy said most donors feel just fine after their donation.
She stressed that the donation procedure is very safe and there is no risk of contracting a disease because a new and sterile needle is used for each donor, and is immediately disposed of after use.
As for those on the receiving end of the blood transfusion, Maloy said it is also safe, and that the risks of contracting a blood-borne disease through a transfusion are far less than the risks of not receiving a transfusion at all.
Donors are advised to avoid any heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for approximately five hours after their donation, and to rehydrate by drinking plenty of water, juice, or non-caffeinated beverages.
“All donors should be prepared to experience the good feeling that comes with knowing that they may have helped save the lives of as many as three patients in need,” Maloy said.
According to the Red Cross website, donors must be age 17 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in generally good health. In Kentucky, those who are 16 years of age may donate with parental consent. Some medical conditions or other circumstances may disqualify may render one ineligible to donate.
Donors must present their driver’s license or a blood donor card when donating.
Donors may donate blood every 56 days.
While all blood types are needed, those with type O-negative or B-negative blood are especially encouraged to donate.
For more information or to make an appointment to donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit redcrossblood.org.