In February we give gifts of the heart, so now is the perfect time to donate blood. Our city is experiencing a grave blood shortage. The American Red Cross is calling the current shortage “the worst in over a decade” and is requesting that eligible persons sign up to give blood now. Across the country, blood donations are down over 10% because sites that normally run blood drives (schools and workplaces) have been closed during the pandemic.
If you’ve never given blood before, please consider donating now. Someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds, and a single blood donation can save more than one life. You will be helping our beleaguered health care workers, as well. I gave (for the first time!) this week and have a few tips.
How to donate
- Make an Appointment: Donating takes just about an hour — if you search here you can find a time and location that works for your schedule. The donation teams move around the city, you may need to drive a bit to find the best fit. You can sign up online with the American Red Cross, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or find a donation site through America’s Blood Centers. You can also call your local hospital to see if blood donations are accepted there.
- Preparation: I wish I’d know to hydrate intentionally for two days before hand – this helps with blood flow.
- What to Expect? As a first time donor, I was a bit nervous, but the teams are extremely thorough and professional. Upon arrival, I filled out a brief questionnaire about my overall health, including inoculations and travel (and Covid vaccines). Next, my blood was tested for strength and type. I had planned to do the Power Red process (aphaeresis is a process that spins blood to separate out the needed red platelets but returns the remainder of your blood back into your body); however, I tested slightly low on iron so made a regular donation instead (where a pint is taken over the course of about a half hour). I lay on a gurney, gently squeezing a sponge to encourage blood flow, and at the end of the process, two separate vials were taken so that the blood would be thoroughly tested before being donated to a patient.
- Recovery: There are snacks to get your energy and blood sugar back up to normal before you go back into the world. No alcohol after, and I was advised to eat regular meals for a day or so.
- Repeat!? Many people give blood regularly – if you find this a satisfying activity, you can do it every two months.
To donate blood, you must be at least 17 years old in most states and in good health. Read more on the eligibility requirements.