Imagine this: your parent was on the surgery table at 7am one morning to have a routine procedure done. It seems like old hat routine, as it’s not the first time you’ve waited this at home (thanks, COVID), but you still anxiously anticipate the phone call from your loved one after they’ve come out of sedation and are coherent enough to let you know how things went. Though they sound groggy, they sound like they feel better already. Your day goes on as normal & you don’t from your parent again that evening, thinking nothing of it, because you knew they had a rough day and you plan to call them first thing in the morning. Suddenly your phone rings at 1am, and it’s your parents cell number popping up on your phone screen. You answer in a confused, half awake state, to hear the pain and shakiness in their voice; ‘Something happened during surgery, my blood pressure has plummeted and we’re working to figure it out’. Instant panic. Nothing can be done from 2 hours away in the middle of the night but worry. Fast forward 12 hours and after another trip to surgery in the middle of the night and a few units of blood, you get a call from your loved one again, letting you know the bleed was fixed and, although on close watch, they’re feeling much better. You realize that if it wasn’t for the fast actions of the doctors that evening, and the selflessness of the multiple blood donors required for the life saving transfusion, the outcome of that night would’ve likely been vastly different.
According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. That means by the time you’ve read to this point of the paragraph, 2 different people now need a transfusion. Blood being readily available is critical for surgeries, cancer treatments, chronic illnesses and traumatic injuries from accidents. Allow me to put the critical need into perspective: 43,200 – the number of units of blood needed, EACH DAY. And while that number is staggering, it’s estimated that only 3% of the age-eligible candidates (or approximately 6.8 million people) actually donate blood & aide in saving a life.
Besides the obvious fact of high demand, why is the need for blood (and platelets) continuously critical and what are contributing factors to its limited availability? As previously stated, only 3% of age-eligible candidates donate annually. Keep in mind, that pool of total candidates is thinned out considerably from the beginning, as it’s stated that less than 38% of the total population is eligible to donate due to not meeting all requirements set forth to ensure the safety of patients and donors. Another reason blood is always in critical demand, is bloods incredibly short shelf life; red blood cells must be used within 42 days of donation date (and within 5 days for platelets). Finally, blood type’s play a major role in a person’s ability to receive a transfusion. Type O- (O negative) is always in the highest demand, as it’s considered universal and safe for transfusion into all blood types; however, only 7% of the U.S. population fits this blood type. Additionally, since AB platelets can safely be transfused into patients of all blood types, they, too, are always in high demand, but only 4% of the U.S. population fits that blood type criteria. Other blood types are still strongly encouraged to donate, as there is a ceaseless need for ALL [blood types].
One donation. Forty-five minutes of your day. Three lives saved. Just remember, you never know when it could be you or your loved one next. To learn eligibility requirements and how or where to donate locally to save a life, please visit https://www.redcrossblood.org/.