January is National Blood Donor Month. But your blood donation is welcome any month! I always tell people: you don’t have to rescue someone from a burning building to be a hero. You can go to your local blood bank and save a life by simply donating one pint of your blood. It only takes an hour and you’ll have the distinction of being in an elite group of people. Only 3 out of 100 Americans donate blood.
Blood is traditionally in short supply during the winter months because of holiday travel schedules, frigid weather, and illness. Every two seconds someone in America needs blood, and approximately 40,000 units of red blood are needed every day. One unit of blood can be separated into four individual components that could help save multiple lives. Scientists have not found a successful substitute for human blood, which is why blood donors are so vital to the lives of those who need it.
I’ve been donating blood since 1980. The first time I donated was for a blood drive at my synagogue. I was a little scared, but I did it anyway. It was so easy and I felt proud of myself—and I got hooked. I continued to donate blood at the American Red Cross in Southern California until I moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1988. Then I started donating at Stanford Blood Center. I’ve donated almost 6 gallons there, which is about 50 donations. I feel grateful that I can do something that’s so effortless for me, yet could make such a difference in someone else’s life.
Few blood centers can maintain more than a three-day supply of blood for transfusions. The need for blood, platelets, and plasma is constant. The majority of blood donations come from baby boomers. But as a demographic, we are approaching an age when medications and health issues may bar us from being able to donate. Boomers are the largest age group of the world population and require more donated blood for our own health. Ironically, we may be using much of the supply we once supported ourselves.
Donating blood is a safe, life-saving and selfless gift that helps every single one of our communities in this country. So be a hero—make an appointment to donate blood today. You can click on the AABB website (American Association of Blood Banks) for FAQs about blood donation and to find a blood bank locator in your neighborhood.