For 50 years, January has been National Blood Donor Month. That’s because winter is one of the most challenging times to collect enough blood and platelets to meet the needs of patients across America.
This year, National Blood Donor Month takes place during perhaps the most challenging time in its history – the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why donating blood and platelets – and now convalescent plasma from those who’ve fully recovered from COVID-19 – is more important than ever.
Convalescent plasma is needed, too. It contains antibodies that can fight COVID-19 infection in others. There’s great demand for it. Keeping it in stock is a challenge. With so many people having tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered from it, there’s a big pool of potential donors.
“Blood and platelet donations are an easy, effective and selfless way to give the gift of life to someone who needs it. You might be that person someday,” says Dr. Bob Zemple of BayCare Clinic Emergency Physicians in Green Bay.
Every 2 seconds, someone in America needs blood. It takes about an hour to donate yours.
Young people especially are encouraged to donate blood during the pandemic. That’s because many regular blood donors are older people who’ve chosen to stay home and avoid public contact to guard against exposure to COVID-19.
“Red blood cells have a shelf life of 42 days. Platelets have a shelf life of five days,” Zemple says. “Having a reliable blood supply is essential. We need to constantly replenish the blood supply. That’s why we so urgently need regular blood donors.”
Donating blood is a way to feel helpful and useful during the pandemic. Some donors say they feel they’re part of the fight against COVID-19. Others say they feel they’ve accomplished something that will make a difference for others.
Coronavirus antibody tests are being conducted on blood, platelet and plasma donations in the hopes of identifying possible convalescent plasma donors.
Donating blood is a good way to give back to the community for people who may not have other means of giving back, such as those for whom time or money is tight.
People who give blood say they’re proud to be donors. They say it’s easy to do, and the right thing do to. They say it’s inspiring, yet humbling. Indeed, some longtime donors modestly insist it’s just a little thing – even though they’ve given more than 10 gallons of blood.
How to donate blood
The American Red Cross and the Appleton-based Community Blood Center are the primary organizations overseeing blood donations and blood drives in BayCare Clinic’s service areas of northeastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
American Red Cross: Go to RedCrossBlood.org. Call 800-733-2767 (800-RED-CROSS). Download the Red Cross Blood Donor app. Enable the Blood Donor skill on any Alexa Echo device.
Community Blood Center: Go to CommunityBlood.org. Call 800-280-4102.