Established by the World Health Organization in 2004, World Blood Donor Day is celebrated every June 14 to raise awareness of the need for blood donors and to thank those who give the gift of life by regularly donating blood. But donating blood shouldn’t only be on our minds one day of the year or when disaster, whether natural or human-made, strikes.
Why we need blood donors
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs life-saving blood. This could be because of blood loss during surgery, a cancer diagnosis, injuries sustained in a car accident, or side effects of diseases like sickle cell (just to name a few!). One out of every seven patients admitted to the hospital will require a blood transfusion during their stay. And women receive more blood transfusions than men, including one out of every 83 births.
It requires an average of over 29,000 units of blood every day to support these life and death demands. And while a single donation can save the lives of up to three people, only 2-3% of eligible Americans donate blood. In fact, in January 2022, the Red Cross declared a “blood crisis,” citing the worst blood shortage in over a decade. Doctors have been forced to delay critical medical treatments and make difficult decisions about who received life-saving blood transfusions.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If all eligible blood donors gave just three times a year, everyone – including you and your family – would receive the life-saving care right when they needed it most.
How to donate blood
So how do you become a blood donor? It’s surprisingly simple and takes less than an hour. That’s right. You can save three lives in just 60 minutes by taking the following steps:
1. Determine if you are eligible.
Generally speaking, people 17 years or older who are in good health may donate. Other criteria include limitations due to medication, travel, and other activities. Consult with your local blood donor center to review the requirements. (On a personal note, I continue to be frustrated by discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in blood donor criteria. While recent changes are a step in the right direction, there is more work to be done.)
2. Make an appointment.
While many blood centers take walk-ins, I find making an appointment is the easiest way to ensure the blood donation process is as efficient as possible for the staff and me. You can schedule an appointment with the Red Cross here or my personal favorite – Versiti Blood Center of Indiana here.
3. Arrive well-rested, fed, and hydrated.
I know some people hesitate to give blood because they’re worried about how they’ll feel after. In my experience, you’ll be good to go as long as you are well-rested, well-fed, and well-hydrated. The more hydrated you are, the easier it will be for tech to find your vein, and the faster your blood will flow! Get a good night’s sleep, eat a hearty meal, and chug, chug, chug all the fluids, and the process will be a piece of cake.
4. Meet with a tech for screening.
With your ID in hand, you’ll spend 10-15 minutes with a trained technician who will review your health history to confirm you are eligible for donation and take your vitals. This process includes a check of blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature, and iron levels (via a tiny finger prick).
5. Donate blood.
Now it’s finally time for the big show! And if you’re scared of the needle, don’t be. Between pregnancy and breast cancer, I am practically an expert when it comes to blood draws, having my experiences run the spectrum from painless to horrifying. I have never had a bad blood draw when donating blood. Blood center technicians are magicians. They make the process as quick and painless as possible.
Once the blood is pumping, the actual donation process can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how fast your blood flows. My husband and I are both regular donors and often compete to see who can give their pint the fastest. (See me for more hot-take marriage tips!)
6. Eat all the snacks.
After the donation, you’ll be ushered into a waiting area where you can enjoy snacks and refreshments. While tempting to skip, I advise against it because (a) unlimited snacks!; (b) it allows you to replenish fluids and make sure you don’t feel lightheaded before getting behind the wheel, and (c) unlimited snacks!
Now it’s your turn to save a life.
Currently, there is no substitute for blood. Our only source is human donors. Dedicating just one hour of your day to donating blood can mean the difference between life or death for fellow Hoosiers. And you never know when it could be you or a member of your family whose life is saved because of a generous blood donor.
One hour for three lives. That’s all it takes. Schedule your blood donation today.