Donate blood all year round

By Mackenzie Oster, For The Pitt News

Out of sight, out of mind — it’s a treacherous mindset that most people subconsciously fall into every day. When mass tragedies strike, the prevalence of violence in our world resurfaces and the first impulse is to find a way to help. This is often why the influx of blood donations heighten around times that such unfortunate incidents occur.

While the effort to help is well-intended, it would be much more beneficial if people stepped up to donate year-round to aid hospitals — especially because the need for blood is constant, not only around times of mass tragedy.

“Every single day blood is needed,” New York Blood Center Vice President Rob Purvis informed the Daily News. “The reason for that is because blood has an expiration date. It’s kind of like milk, so you have to manage the supplies in and out.”

Purvis also mentioned that blood has to have already been donated to be of service the day of a disaster. The process to donating blood takes time. After the donation of the blood is done, it has to be processed and tested before being stored for later use. This process often takes several days, which is why blood that is donated right after violent incidents can’t immediately be put to use.

After the shooting on Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, hundreds of people lined up to donate blood and hopefully help the victims of the incident. However, many people fail to realize that donating blood only after mass tragedies may not be the best way to help.

Blood expires after 42 days, which is why it is especially critical that the influx of blood donations stay steady year-round, because the blood cannot be stored away for very long and may even end up going to waste.

“Blood is a precious commodity, and we want to use every drop of it,” Dr. James Lozada, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told CNN. “That’s why we encourage people to donate regularly rather than in the immediate aftermaths of these events.”

Lozada conducted a study that analyzed the rate of blood donations after the Las Vegas shooting that left more than 800 people wounded and 58 dead in October 2017. He collected the data from three Las Vegas health care systems from 220 patients who were wounded, 68 of whom were in critical condition.

Just three days after the Las Vegas shooting, the American Red Cross saw an increase in blood donations by 53 percent nationwide.

“United Blood Services, the Las Vegas blood bank now called Vitalant, reported receiving 791 donations immediately after the shooting,” CNN reported. “The study authors that 137 of these donations — or 17% — were ‘wasted,’ meaning the donated blood went unused and was subsequently discarded, according to the study.”

Dr. Leslie Greebon, the director of the blood lab at University hospital, said the most important thing to know about blood supply is that it’s like a pipeline, not a bank, Kens5 reported.

“We need that blood beforehand,” she said. “If you donate today, it may not be ready for three to four days from now.”

In order to prevent blood from going to waste, schedule an appointment to donate in the future. We can’t predict when these tragedies will occur and the blood that is given ahead of time is the most useful for the treatment of the victims affected. Donations are especially low during the summer months and holiday seasons when regular blood donors are not as reliable.

Standard blood donations can be done every 56 days, so new donors are always needed. Eligibility to donate blood includes people of good health, at least the age of 17 — 16 with parental consent — and a weight above 110 pounds.

However, there are also many restrictions that can prevent the eligibility to give blood. Factors such as tattoos that have been done less than a year ago, inadequate blood pressure and HIV/AIDS are all things that can prevent a blood-donor from being able to donate. Type O negative blood is the “universal” blood type and is in the highest demand during emergencies, but all blood types can make a difference.

An alternative to donating blood is contributing to organizations that support the community affected. Money given to a certified GoFundMe will go directly to the survivors and families of the Tree of Life victims and help to repair the damage done to the synagogue.

With the rate of mass tragedies on the climb, it’s vital that citizens know the proper response to help the communities affected. Blood donations are always encouraged and appreciated, but used most efficiently if done year-round. The need for blood donations is constant, so schedule an appointment now, because you never know what life you may impact.