What do Donna Summer, Robin Gibb, Vidal Sassoon and Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys all have in common? Each of them died this spring of a condition that is often treated with blood transfusions.
Kidney and liver failure, cancer, trauma, surgery, sickle cell disease and hemophilia can all necessitate blood transfusions. A total of 4.5 million Americans need blood transfusions every year, often more than once.
That’s a lot of blood.
Right now, it comes from not a lot of people. Only 37% of Americans are eligible to donate blood (disqualifications include exposure to bloodborne diseases and use of certain medications). Only 10% of eligible donors actually donate — that’s about 3% of the U.S. population. Not all donations pass the rigorous tests for disease and other factors that are conducted before blood is transfused into a patient.
Unsurprisingly, blood shortages are common. They are most likely during the fast-approaching summer holiday and during winter holidays.
America’s Blood Centers promise that donors “cannot get AIDS or any other infectious disease by donating blood,” and estimate that the entire process of donating, from medical history to sugary snacks, takes about an hour.
17% of people who have never donated blood say their main reason is that they never thought about it.
Think about it. You can save a life — actually, your single donation can save three lives. And the day may come when you are the one who needs the blood.
That is where my grandfather finds himself. After donating often as a young man, he now has a blood cancer that requires regular transfusions. I donate to help him and everyone else whose lives depend on it, and to bank some karma points against the day when I or another loved one is on the other end of the needle.
For information about how to donate, contact your local hospital, America’s Blood Centers at 1-888-US-BLOOD, or the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS, or visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/.
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