Continual blood donations are crucial to saving people’s lives — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Big Red Bus is a common sight in shopping center parking lots when OneBlood is holding one of its donation events. Some folks donate blood regularly because they like the philanthropic aspect of giving. Others are enticed by the free wellness checkup, and still others are drawn in with the offer of free T-shirts or movie tickets.
The reason people board the bus or walk into a donation center isn’t important; what’s important is that they are donating their blood, platelets and plasma — and saving people’s lives.
Blood is made up of four main components: red blood cells, platelets, plasma and white blood cells. Each one-pint whole-blood donation has the potential to save up to three lives.
WHO CAN DONATE?
Healthy adults are encouraged to donate blood on a regular basis.
According to OneBlood, even people who have health issues can still donate. This includes:
• Those with anemia or low iron, high blood pressure, diabetes or localized skin cancers
• People taking certain medications for non-infectious diseases
• Those who have a healed tattoo received at a state-licensed and regulated facility
• Those who have a healed body piercing done with single-use equipment
• People who are 18 and older or 16 and older with a parent’s or guardian’s signature
• Those who are free of illness such as cold or flu and who have not had minor surgeries, including dental work, within 24 hours
• Women six weeks after giving birth
There is more than one way to give blood.
• Whole blood donation is the traditional way of donating and draws a pint of blood containing red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma at one time. People with blood types O-, O+, A-, A+ and B- can donate whole blood every 56 days for a total of six donations a year.
• Double red cell donation involves collecting only red blood cells and not platelets or plasma. People with O-type blood and those with certain Rh negative blood types are encouraged to donate this way because their red cells are in the highest demand by hospitals. People with blood types O-, O+, A-, A+ and B- can donate every 112 days for a total of three donations a year.
• Platelets are important to cancer patients, the primary recipients. It would take six to eight whole-blood donors together to produce one complete platelet dose. People with the blood types A+, B+, AB-, AB+ and O+ can donate platelets every seven days, up to 24 times a year. Those who have donated whole blood must wait at least seven days before donating platelets.
• Plasma has the clotting factors that stop patients from bleeding. Trauma patients, burn patients and transplant patients are often recipients of plasma. People with AB-type blood are the universal plasma donors. This means their plasma can be transfused into any patient, regardless of the recipients’ blood type. People with blood types AB- and AB+ can be donated every 28 days up to 12 times a year.
REASONS TO DONATE
When Debbie and Arcenio Calderon’s daughter, Kristelle, was 3, she had her tonsils removed. This typically is a routine surgery, but for the Ocoee family, it marked the day their daughter nearly died.
Three days after the surgery, Kristelle hemorrhaged, began going in and out of consciousness and arrived at the hospital in critical condition. She needed two full units of blood.
“They said that she didn’t have much blood left in her little body,” Debbie Calderon said.
Kristelle, now 23, is healthy and has regularly donated blood since she was 16 as a way of paying forward the blessings of blood donation.
“The blood she received saved her life, no question about it,” Debbie Calderon said. “Without it, she would have never made it, and her dad and I are forever grateful to the donors who saved our baby girl.”
Kathryn Austin, of Winter Garden, and her son, Ryan, both are alive today because of blood donations.
Austin had a troubled pregnancy and ended up on bed rest. Doctors planned an early delivery with a team of surgeons on hand.
“Chances were, I would hemorrhage; chances were, I would die,” she said. “And with this condition, we would not know until I was opened up.”
Multiple ports were put in “because the expectation was that I would bleed out,” she said. “I had asked to stay awake because if I was to die, I wanted to see the baby first. He was going to be safe; I was promised that his chances were very good. Mine were not.”
Austin required 23 units of blood in the operating room — at no blood pressure and no pulse because the blood was free flowing, she said. The next day, she started bleeding out again and had to get six more units of blood, four units of platelets and two more of fresh, frozen plasma.
“I thank God almost every day for the people that give blood, and I have friends who still text me that they give on Ryan’s birthday in my honor,” Austin said.
Ryan turned 20 earlier this year.
“If you ever questioned why giving blood is important, my story is just one example of a mother who only gets to watch her children grow up because of the people who gave blood unknowingly to save my life,” she said. “People don’t know the role they play in saving a life.”
BLOOD DONATIONS CRITICAL
COVID-19 has forced the temporary closures of businesses and schools, and OneBlood is experiencing a decrease in available locations to host blood drives. It has reported more than 1,900 blood drive cancellations through May, which would have accounted for more than 30,000 blood donations.
To find a OneBlood donation location, make an appointment or book the Big Red Bus for a blood drive, visit oneblood.org.
The U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration have stated it is safe to donate blood and attend blood drives. Blood centers are regulated by the FDA and are required to follow strict guidelines. Social distancing protocols have been implemented.