Just coming off of the holiday season, one may not be thinking of donating blood, but that’s exactly why January has been named National Blood Donor Month.
For the past 50 years, January has been recognized as National Blood Donor, as factors like holiday schedules, extreme winter weather and seasonal illnesses often impact donor turnout this time of year, according to the American Red Cross.
Regina Boothe Bratton, external communications manager for the American Red Cross, said January is a crucial time to donate blood, if possible.
“We’re coming off a holiday season, and historically, we do not collect much blood during the holiday season,” she said. “It’s not on the minds of people. We want to remind people that patients (who need blood) do not take a break, they still need to get treatments.”
Boothe Bratton gave one example of a 3-year-old child who lives in Pennsylvania who needs blood transfusions every 21 days.
“Without those transfusions, she will die,” she said. “That’s just one example of how urgent and constant the need is for blood is.”
Additionally, with events like natural disasters, mass shootings, hurricanes, wildfires and everyday trauma cases, collection of blood donations is always needed.
“It’s like we’ve been trying to play catchup for more than a year,” she said. “There’s just been a series of events that have been contributing to the fact that we’re not up to the amount we need.”
While The American Red Cross has been able to meet patient need, building reserves has been the biggest issue.
“We don’t have an excess, and as soon as the blood is coming in, it’s gong out,” said Boothe Bratton. “We have a five-day testing process for whole blood. After it’s tested and deemed safe, it’s shipped out to hospitals and medical facilities.”
While all types are needed, Boothe Bratton stressed the need for O negative blood.
“it’s the universal blood type,” she said. “If ER physicians have trauma cases, and they don’t have time to test the person’s blood, they reach for O negative.”
The goal is to make sure no treatments or surgeries have to be delayed because of lack of blood supply.
“We’re working around the clock to make sure that doesn’t happen anywhere,” said Boothe Bratton.
To look for a blood drive in the area, people can download the free American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit the RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS for more information.