Did you know that January is National Blood Donation Month? I didn’t realize this fact until I attempted to do the Sunday, January 1, 2023 New York Times Crossword (after my year-long streak, it feels great not to “have” to finish the crossword!). 5-Down’s clue was “National Blood Donor Mo.,” and as soon as I filled in 5-Across with Japan (for “Country whose capital is an anagram of its former capital”), I put down my phone and searched the internet for “blood donation near me.” I had been meaning to get back into the habit of blood donation now that we are settled back into the US from our years abroad. Luckily, there were still appointments available at my local American Red Cross monthly blood donation site and I happily signed up.
I have O+ blood, which is considered the “universal donor” blood type as 80% of people can use this blood for infusions. But it’s important to donate blood, no matter which blood type you are! There is always an urgent need for blood donations. Every 2 seconds, someone in the US needs blood, and we have particularly low blood supplies in the US due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can help save someone’s life, and it’s easy to do! I checked in at my appointment time, answered some health questions and got my vitals measured, relaxed on a cot for about 15 minutes while gently squeezing and rolling a squishy ball to keep the blood flowing, and then got to drink apple juice and eat yummy sugary snacks for 15 more minutes before proceeding on my way. That’s not a bad way to spend an hour, and it makes a huge difference.
You can make a difference too! Search on the American Red Cross website for blood donation centers near you. Check the eligibility requirements and make sure you are signing up for a procedure that fits your height and weight! (Unfortunately, I’m not able to do the Power Red blood donation, which uses a centrifuge similar to bone marrow donation to safely take double the amount of red blood cells while returning your plasma and platelets back to your body.) Don’t be afraid that your recent international travel experience will make you ineligible; it’s important to fully disclose international living and travel experiences but the main concern is a malaria-risk country. You can also download the American Red Cross Blood Donor app, which will allow you to schedule your blood donations, complete your Rapid Pass ahead of time, access your donor record, health stats, and donor card, see where your blood donation goes, and more!
And there is good news for making progress toward an inclusive blood donation process that treats all potential donors with respect and equality. Right now, some members of the LGBTQ+ community are excluded from blood donation simply because of same-sex partnerships, regardless of whether these are committed, long-term, and monogamous relationships. The FDA has recently acknowledged that blood donation policy should be based on risk factors shared across all potential donors, rather than singling out specific subgroups. You can read the American Red Cross’s statement in support of this proposed change here, and you can provide public feedback to the FDA at this website (click on the top left blue comment box!) until March 31, 2023. I fully support this change and look forward to seeing progress toward equality for LGBTQ+ members of society in this and other important areas.
Thank you, American Red Cross and all blood donors, for making the world a better place!
Listen to this article on Jocelyn Sage Mitchell’s Soundcloud (updated March 28, 2023):