By Maggie Gill, System Communications Intern
Now is the time to give, says the American Red Cross. On July 5, the not-for-profit organization issued an emergency call for blood and platelets. The request comes on the heels of a particularly slow donation season, when the available supply fell 39,000 donations short of hospital need – a trend that is expected to continue in the following weeks, as regular donors flock to the beaches and mountains for the summer holidays. Unfortunately for the five million Americans who rely on transfusions each year, a vacation is a luxury that they can’t afford.
“We urge people to give now to help hospital patients who depend on blood and platelets being available when they need it,” said Chris Hrouda, executive vice president of the Red Cross Biomedical Services, in a press release. “Summer is one of the most challenging seasons to collect enough blood, but patients need blood no matter what time of the year it is.”
Making up the deficit will require the participation of first-time donors, especially. But often, it’s these individuals who are the most hesitant to roll up their sleeves. One survey found that the top reason that would-be donors decline to give is a fear of needles. The Red Cross recommends that needle-phobes focus on the difference that their gift will make: a single pint of blood – the amount that’s typically collected in a draw – can save the lives of up to three other people. If you count yourself among the ten percent of the population that experiences fear around needles, it may also help to know what to expect on donation day. Here’s a summary of the simple, four step process.
- Registration. When you arrive at the blood drive, you’ll see a registration table staffed by a Red Cross employee or volunteer, who will sign you in and review the eligibility guidelines and donation information with you. Be prepared to show your donor card, driver’s license or other form of identification.
- Health History and Mini-Physical. This includes a private, confidential interview with a second Red Cross employee or volunteer about your health and travel history. Afterward, he or she will take your temperature, pulse and blood pressure, and prick your finger for a hemoglobin sample.
- Donation. Although you can expect your visit to take about an hour, the blood draw itself only lasts eight to ten minutes. The Red Cross attendant will clean a site on your arm with an alcohol swab and insert a brand-new, sterile needle into the vein. During this time, you can read, listen to music or talk with a friend. After the draw is complete, the attendant will remove the needle and cover the site with a bandage.
- Refreshments. In the refreshments area, you can enjoy complimentary cookies and apple juice – and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made a difference in the lives of others!
You can read more about what to expect Red Cross’ website.
If you’re a first-time donor, or if you haven’t donated in a while, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the eligibility guidelines. As of May, male blood and platelet donors must have a minimum hemoglobin level of 13.0 g/dL – an increase from the previous 12.5 g/dL. (For females, the minimum acceptable level is still 12.5 g/dL.) Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that’s responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the tissues in the rest of the body. The Red Cross tests all prospective donors’ hemoglobin levels as part of the mini-physical, to ensure that they’re able to give safely; individuals who don’t meet the requirement are invited to come back later, once they’ve raised their levels.
Are you ready to save a life (or three)? University of Maryland Medical Center’s next blood drive will take place in the Gudelsky Hallway on:
- Tuesday, July 26 (8 am – 8 pm)
- Wednesday, July 27 (8 am – 8 pm)
- Thursday, July 28 (7 am – 7 pm)
Donors receive a $5-coupon valid at all UMMC vendors and will be entered in a drawing for two tickets to an upcoming Orioles game.
Walk-ins are welcome, but should be advised that appointments are honored first. Click here to schedule yours today! To save even more time at the donation site, you can also print or download a RapidPass, which allows you to read the education materials and answer the health history questions before your appointment, in the comfort of your home.