Each year in the United States, 4.5 million patients depend on blood transfusions. This lifesaving treatment is made possible by the 40,000 people who donate blood daily across the nation. The need for blood is being met – but barely.
The good news – close to 60 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood. Unfortunately, only five percent of these individuals actually do – which means there is definitely more we can do as a nation to ensure a healthy blood supply. Unfounded notions about the donation process, misconceptions about the need for blood, and myths surrounding our blood supply in general keep well-intentioned individuals from becoming regular, lifesaving blood donors.
- MYTH Blood donors with rare blood types are most needed. Of course, all blood types are needed daily, but the greatest need will be for the most common blood type. It’s also important to remember that in an emergency, anyone can receive type O red blood cells. Those people with type O blood are known as “universal donors” and their donations are in great demand by our nation’s blood centers.
- MYTH Donated blood can be stockpiled. Blood is a living tissue – and like most living tissues, it is perishable and must be handled with care. To maintain its life-saving properties, blood is stored in special nutrient solutions. Nonetheless, each unit of blood can only be stored safely for up to 42 days and platelets last only five days.
- MYTH The best time to donate blood is in times of crisis. Although major disasters such as 9/11 do not typically require a surplus of blood, that is when blood centers see the greatest outpouring of support from the public. However, it is not the donor who responds to a crisis who saves the day. Rather it is the donor who came in days earlier, before the crisis occurred, who provides the blood that is actually on the hospital shelves to be used at the time of an unexpected disaster. Having a safe and ample blood supply from donors who give frequently is the best preparation for a crisis – whether it is a catastrophic event like 9/11 or a patient’s private battle against cancer.
Our need for donations is ever present. Visit CarterBloodCare.org to schedule your donation and to find more information about donating blood and platelets.