It has no artificial replacement. Patients can require enormous amounts of it, suddenly and quickly, as well as on a sustained basis. But safe, abundant supplies of blood are desperately needed now, the Red Cross says, having declared what it says is its first-ever national crisis with the country facing its most dire shortages in a decade.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted donations, which already were spare, says the nonprofit agency that collects 40% of the nation’s supply. In more regular times, just 3% of those who are eligible donate blood, and donations have fallen off a cliff since the pandemic started.
Demand, however, persists. As a selection of the agency’s reported statistics show:
“Every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood and or platelets. Approximately 29,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U. S. Nearly 5,000 units of platelets and 6.500 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S. The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 units. A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.8 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2020. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.”
Not everyone may give blood and there are eligibility requirements to safeguard donors and the supply.
LGBTQ groups, taking note of the current shortages, have urged regulators of the nation’s blood supplies to revisit and lift their bans on donations from men who have sex with other men, arguing this measure imposed when medical scientists knew little about HIV-AIDS is no longer useful with new screening technologies. Advocates also say it stigmatizes gays and bisexuals and is homophobic.
The process to donate blood is painless and hospitals, clinics, and blood banking institutions, with a boost from supporting charitable organizations, try to make the process as easy, simple, and convenient as possible.
Those who donate, the Red Cross emphasizes, give a special gift, as “blood and platelets cannot be manufactured; they can only come from volunteer donors,” and “one donation can potentially save up to three lives.”
If you committed over the holidays to giving more to others and your community, or you resolved for the New Year to engage in greater altruistic activity (and if you need ideas to be a medical Good Samaritan), donating blood might be a great thing to do, pronto.