By Lauren Porter
In this article:
What is World Blood Donor Day?
Blood donor eligibility
The blood donation process
Other ways to be involved
A personal story
What about COVID?
For more information
World Blood Donor Day takes place on June 14th each year. The aim is to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion and of the critical contribution voluntary, unpaid blood donors make to national health systems.
The 2021 WBDD slogan is, “Give blood and keep the world beating” to highlight the essential contribution that donors make in saving lives and improving others’ health. The Red Cross tells us that there is no synthetic substitute for human blood that can be transfused to patients. There is still only one source: generous volunteer blood donors.
The need for blood is constant, with someone needing blood every two seconds in the US alone. Yet, not everyone has access to blood, and blood is constantly in short supply. The only way to get the millions of units needed each year to over 4.5 million patients is from donors. Unfortunately, less than 2% of eligible donors donate each year, even though 75% of people will need blood before age 72. The most common reasons cited for not donating are being too busy or never thought about it. World Blood Donor Day is a great time to consider donating for the first time, or scheduling an appointment if you haven’t been in a while. The top reason cited for being a donor is to help others. Each donation can potentially save up to three lives!
Many people have considered donating blood but may be a bit nervous or unsure of what to expect. Here is some information that can help answer some common questions!
General eligibility requirements for whole blood donation:
Age 16-17+ (depending on your state)
Weigh at least 110 lbs
Feel well on the day of the appointment
Blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and hemoglobin levels in normal range
More in-depth eligibility requirements by topic can be found here.
Common reasons people can’t donate are being sick with the cold or flu, certain medications (like aspirin or antibiotics), some recent vaccines (like Hep B or smallpox, no waiting period after the COVID vaccine!), recent travel to high-risk areas for things like Zika, Ebola, or malaria, or a recent tattoo or piercing in an unlicensed facility. Almost all of these things are temporary, and they’ll give you a timeframe for when you can try again.
The Blood Donation Process
So, you’ve decided to give it a try. What actually happens when you get to your donation?
Registration - you’ll sign in, read an informational packet, show ID, and get a nametag. If it’s your first time, you’ll get a special name tag so staff can provide extra support through your experience.
Health history and mini-physical - you’ll answer a small questionnaire about health history and places you’ve recently traveled in a private, confidential space. Next, they will check your vital signs. They will also prick your finger to collect a drop of blood to test your hemoglobin.
Donating - you will lay down flat or slightly elevated on a table (similar to when you go to a doctor’s office). They will select one arm and locate a vein in the middle. After cleansing the area, they will insert the needle (like when you get an IV or have blood drawn). It will feel like a quick pinch. Now, you’re on your way! The speed varies person-by-person. It can take anywhere from 3-15 minutes, but the most common is 8-10 minutes. After they’ve collected one pint of blood, they will remove the needle. They will take a few test tubes of blood (just a couple teaspoons) to run tests before they send the donation to where it’s needed. They will give you a bandage and aftercare instructions.
Refreshment and recovery - you will go to the recovery area and have some snacks to help you replenish fluids and energy right away. You will stay for 10-15 minutes and then you can go about your normal routine with some limitations. You will need to have extra fluids and avoid strenuous lifting that day.
Returning - your body is able to replace all of the blood volume lost after only 48 hours! Although, it can take about eight weeks to fully regain the red blood cells, so you can only donate every 56 days.
What Else Could I Do?
Some people are unable to donate due to health history or recent experiences, or they may wish not to for personal or religious reasons. If that’s the case but you still want to support public health and need for blood in your communities, here are some ways you can help:
Encourage friends or family members to donate blood
Volunteer at a blood drive or help coordinate one
Join a phone bank to call potential donors
Participate in World Blood Donor Day on social media
Disseminate information about the importance of giving blood
Donate to or volunteer with blood service organizations
How Do I Join the Kappa Blood Team?
First, download the Blood Donor app or go to https://3cu.be/blood to get started. This is a great tool to schedule appointments, earn achievements, save time at your appointment by answering the health questions from home, view your donation history, and even see where your blood donation was sent to!
Once you’ve joined the app, click on “impact” on the bottom of the screen. At the top, click “my team” and then “create or join team” in the center of the screen. Next, type in “Kappa Delta Phi NAS” and click “join!” You can recruit others to the team, too. Our collective impact is measured, and we can celebrate living out our value of kindness through blood donation!
A Personal Story
Hi! I’m Lauren, author of this article. Donating blood is a really important cause for me. There’s not any clear reason, like needing a blood transfusion in childhood or having a friend whose life was saved because of a blood donor. I’ve simply wanted to give blood for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory is around five years old when I first found out about blood donation on a movie or TV show. After my parents explained what that was to me, I immediately wanted to do it. My kindergarten-aged self was heartbroken when I found out you had to wait until you turned 16. I began counting down the years and was excited to talk to my dad every time he came home from one of his donation appointments.
As I approached my 16th birthday, I skipped the Sweet 16 party and instead booked a blood donation appointment. Unfortunately, I was deferred. I was heartbroken all over again and shed many tears! I waited for my deferment period to finish, and then tried again. My second attempt was successful, and I was hooked!
I immediately had a sense that I had done something to help other people that was desperately needed. It wasn’t an experience where you leave wondering if you made any real difference. I knew for certain I did. Blood cannot be manufactured. The only way people get the blood they need is through people who make the time to show up. I knew that I wanted to be that person who showed up, as close to every 56 days as possible. Hearing stories of people who needed blood transfusions due to an accident or people with chronic health issues who rely on transfusions always reinspires me that this is such an important way to give back. Any of us could need blood in our lifetime - in fact most of us will - and that blood will be a result of a stranger somewhere in the country that took the time to donate. We can be that person for someone else.
In college, I was a blood drive coordinator for my university and worked a lot with recruiting first-time donors. Often, it was a scary concept, but after their first donation, most realized it wasn’t so bad and was worthwhile. It was also inspiring to see people who had been donating for years (or even decades) every 56 days like clockwork. I admired their dedication and commitment to saving the lives of people they didn’t know. Some people can’t or don’t want to donate. In that case, I always encourage people to give back in another way, like volunteering at a blood drive, encouraging others to donate, or spreading the word.
There’s been long periods of time in my life where I couldn’t donate due to anemia, but I keep trying. To date, I’ve donated nearly three gallons of blood! That’s up to 72 lives saved. Today, giving blood is an activity I love to do with my sisters. We make a sister date out of it and live out our values together.
Giving blood is a selfless and authentic way to live out kindness for humanity. It’s an amazing feeling to know that one hour out of your day every couple of months can save up to three lives. If only another 1% of people donated, the blood shortage would cease to exist. I hope you consider donating and see if being a blood donor is right for you.
The Red Cross has lost hundreds of thousands of potential donations due to cancelled blood drives throughout the pandemic. The need for blood is as high as ever. New safety protocols have been established to keep you safe. If you’ve had the vaccine (AstraZeneca, J&J, Moderna, Novavax, or Pfizer), there is no deferral time as long as you are feeling well. If you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, you will need to wait 14 days to donate.
For questions, you can call the American Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767 or visit https://www.redcross.org/. To make an appointment, use the Blood Donor app or the website!