Blood Donation Encouraged During Red Cross Month

March is “Red Cross Month”, and the American Red Cross continues to encourage people to donate blood, especially as spring approaches, to strengthen the national blood supply. Those who donate by March 24 will receive a $10 e-gift card to a pet supply merchant of choice, plus a chance to win one of five $5,000.00 gift cards.

The Red Cross is also teaming up with Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures to celebrate the new film Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, and those who donate March 25-April 7 will receive a Godzilla x Kong and Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. 

People of all blood types are encouraged to donate, especially those with type O blood, to ensure that hospitals can meet the daily demand for lifesaving transfusions. 

Medical procedures ranging from routine to emergent require blood transfusions and oftentimes can mean the difference between life and death. Small and rural communities are no strangers to these events, and in January, an emergency blood relay from Minneapolis to Stevens Community Medical Center was executed. The relay involved several state troopers meeting at checkpoints along the drive from Minneapolis to Morris to hand off the blood that was needed. 

Early this year, the American Red Cross declared an emergency blood shortage and called for donations during National Blood Donor Month in January. The organization said it experienced the lowest number of people giving blood in the last 20 years. Every two seconds, a person needs lifesaving blood in the United States, according to Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross.

It’s not uncommon for the Red Cross to host blood drives at schools or places of business because it makes it convenient for people to donate blood, however, since many people have transitioned to working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not as easy to meet people where they are. 

Being a blood donor is not a one-size-fits-all glove, and there are several ways a person can donate.

Whole blood is the most flexible type of donation, and is transfused in its original form, and can be used to help multiple people when separated into its specific components of red cells, plasma, and platelets. Typically, this type of donation is received by trauma and surgery patients. It takes about one hour to donate, and donors can give up to six times per year. All blood types are ideal for whole blood donation.

Power red donation is when a donor gives a concentrated dose of red cells, which is the part of blood used every day for those needing transfusions as part of their care. It uses an automated process that separates your red blood cells from the other blood components and safely and comfortably returns your plasma and platelets to you. This type of donation typically helps trauma patients, newborns, emergency transfusions during birth, people with sickle cell anemia, and anyone suffering blood loss. The donation takes about an hour and a half and is ideally types O negative and positive, A negative, and B negative. A donor can give power reds up to three times per year.

Platelet donation is when a donor gives their platelets and some plasma, and has their red cells and most of the plasma returned to them. A single platelet donation can yield several transfusable units and is most often used by cancer patients and others facing life-threatening illnesses and injuries. It takes about two and a half to three hours, and the ideal blood types are A positive, A negative, B positive, O positive, AB positive, and AB negative. Platelets can be donated up to 24 times per year.

Plasma, a part of the blood used to treat patients in emergencies, is donated through an automated process that separates plasma from other blood components, which then returns the red blood cells and platelets to the donor. AB plasma can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type. The donation takes about an hour and 15 minutes, only a little longer than a whole blood donation, and the ideal donors have types AB positive and AB negative blood. Plasma can be donated up to 13 times per year.

Donating blood may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With so many different methods and types of donating, a person can find what suits them best. 

Blood drives happen several times per year in Stevens County, with upcoming drives happening at the Hancock School, the University of Minnesota Morris, and the Hosanna Worship Center in Morris in April. If you are interested in giving blood, you can log on to redcrossblood.org and enter your zip code to find blood drives near you. 

Visiting redcrossblood.org, downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS is another way to book a time to donate.

If giving blood is not an option, another way to support the Red Cross is by volunteering at blood drives as an ambassador, who helps greet, check in, and thank blood donors and ensure a positive experience. Volunteers can also help with transportation, and making sure donations arrive safely at nearby hospitals.