January is National Blood Donor Month! Awareness of blood donation is extra important this year as the United States and countries around the world are currently facing historic blood shortages. The American Red Cross has declared the first ever national blood crisis. While this shortage has the potential to impact us all, it is especially threatening for many people with genetic blood disorders such as sickle cell disease.
Why do we need blood donations?
Blood cannot be manufactured. Therefore, we rely on donations to keep a stock of available blood components for routine medical care as well as emergencies. Donated blood is used by people in a wide variety of circumstances including cancer treatment, surgery, childbirth, and traumatic accidents. Someone needs blood every two seconds, and one in three people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives.
Do you know your blood type?
There are eight common blood types: A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+, AB-. Per the Red Cross, donations of all blood types are needed. Your blood type depends on the blood type of your parents. The Red Cross has fun tools for you to learn about the different blood types, how blood types are inherited, and how common your blood type is in the general population at: Blood Types Explained – A, B, AB and O | Red Cross Blood Services. It is important to know your blood type! You will want to know it if there is an emergency. If you don’t know your type, you can find out by donating and/or talking to your doctor!
Did you know that there is more than one way to give blood? Blood can be donated as whole blood, double red blood cells (also known as power red donations), platelets or plasma. OneBlood also has a program that shows the most needed components needed from each blood type, which can help donors target how they donate: Target Your Type | OneBlood.
Learn how you can help!
A single blood donation can save up to three lives! You can help by donating blood today. According to OneBlood, “37% of the population is eligible to donate blood, yet only 5% actually do.” To see if you are eligible, visit: Eligibility FAQ’s. You can find a donation center near you by visiting: Donate Now | OneBlood. Even if you aren’t eligible to donate yourself, you can help by spreading awareness, volunteering at a blood bank, or helping to Host A Blood Drive | OneBlood.
As always, talk to your doctor about any information presented in this article, on the sites listed in this article, and with any questions you may have about your family’s care. Remember your doctor and genetic counselor are there to help!
About Jessica Dronen, MS, LCGC. Jessica is a Genetic Diseases Research and Information Specialist for ThinkGenetic, Inc. She received her Master of Science in the field of Genetic Counseling at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in 2016. She has worked with both pediatric and adult patients in a variety of areas. Away from work Jessica enjoys reading memoirs, making music and spending time outside with her family.