American Red Cross: Blood donations at their lowest point in more than 10 years

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 19, 2022 – The Red Cross is experiencing a historic blood donation crisis. Blood donations are at their lowest in over a decade. Donations are crucial in helping people make swift recoveries in the hospital from various illnesses and surgeries. For patients like Charley Chance, an infant battling leukemia, having blood donations available is truly the key to her survival.

 

Charley has been battling leukemia since her diagnosis in August 2021 when she was 6 months old. Sarah Chance, Charley’s mother, noticed that around the same time Charley started daycare, she was constantly sick. Charley’s doctors assured Sarah that it was just a virus and would go away as Charley got acclimated to the daycare environment. However, her symptoms continued. After some more tests, she was eventually diagnosed with leukemia.

 

Ever since her diagnosis, Charley has been in and out of the hospital frequently for chemotherapy treatments and receiving several blood transfusions. She had been doing well until recently she started vomiting blood for four days in a row. Charley’s doctors recommended Charley have platelet transfusion, but the blood supply at the hospital was very scarce. “They said that there were only 9 bags left between the adult and children’s hospitals,” Sarah recalled. “They had to prioritize those that were actively bleeding, so Charley would have to wait to get a transfusion.”

 

Charley’s condition did not improve, and she continued to vomit blood. Sarah stated that she’ll never forget that stressful day. “I had no idea if Charley was going to get the help she needed,” she said. “It opened my eyes to the great need to give blood so it’s available when others desperately need it. You just don’t think about the scarcity until it happens right in front of you.”

 

Charley was moved up on the priority list as she continued to worsen and was given the platelet transfusion that she needed to recover. But that day left an impression on Sarah.

 

“Charley’s situation has inspired me not only to donate blood, but to also encourage others to give blood as well,” Sarah said. To help increase blood donations, the family plans to host two blood drives with Charley’s daycare and Vanderbilt in the coming months. “My hope is for something positive to come out of Charley’s illness and to help other families who might be struggling with a similar situation. Having these blood drives will hopefully bring about something good from all of this.”

 

Charley is almost a year old and is recovering from a recent stem cell transplant. Her 3-year-old brother, Aidan, was her donor match, which is very rare. The Chance family is hopeful that Charley will make full recovery. If you’d like to follow Charley’s journey, please visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CharleyStrong2/.

 

Like so many other critical patients, Charley could not have survived this last year without blood donations. The process to give is simple. Blood donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.

 

Volunteers needed

In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions, and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists are especially needed in the Nashville Area Chapter. These volunteers provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities across the country. To volunteer to support the Red Cross blood collections, visit RedCross.org/VolunteerToday.

Blood drive safety

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.

Save time during donation

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

 

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Health insights for donors

At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease who require trait-negative blood. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.

Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.

 

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.