A few weeks ago we saw America's generosity in the long lines
of people waiting to donate blood following the hurricane Katrina disaster and again with hurricane Rita. These blood donation heroes felt strongly about assisting with the 9/11 tragedy. According to the Red Cross, it is now a year later and the demand for blood donations is rising. I would like to offer a few reasons why blood donation heroes continue to be needed.
First, demand for blood cells is increasing. Surgeries that require more transfusions, like organ transplants, are becoming more common. Demand for blood in chemotherapy treatment is also increasing. Both transplants and chemotherapy make it harder for patients to develop their own healthy blood cells, so these patients require frequent transfusions. Younger generations have not made the donation of blood a part of their lifestyle. We have fewer people eligible to donate due to an increased number of restrictions on blood donors. For example, some medications make people ineligible to donate. The world is experiencing a growing number of blood shortages. By January of this year blood collectors were reporting critical blood shortages. A recent survey found that 7% of hospitals had postponed surgeries because of a lack of available blood. Dr. Celso Bianco, president of America's Blood Centers concluded, "The stress on the blood supply system is increasing. We are hoping to educate and cultivate a younger, healthy generation of blood donors to replace those who will soon no longer be able to donate." Roughly 60 percent of the population can donate blood, but only 5 percent actually donate.
Second, more children need blood. Of the 70 million children in the United States, hundreds suffer from various forms of leukemia, sickle cell, need transplants, and are born prematurely. More than 3,000 new cases of leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma are diagnosed in children under age 15 each year. These children require life-saving components such as red blood cells and platelets. According to Bianco, "Many of these kids today run, skip, and play because they got another chance at life. In most cases, this would not be possible without the generosity of volunteer blood donors."
Third, donating blood saves lives. Every day the Red Cross needs 25,000 units of blood to meet the needs of accident victims, trauma patients, children with diseases, surgical patients, oncology patients on chemotherapy, and kidney failure patients. A single donation of blood can be split into as many as three parts – used for three patients and the opportunity to help three lives.
Fourth, donating blood may save your own life. Dr. Jukka T. Salonen of the University of Kuopio in Finland found that "blood donations may be associated with a decreased risk of heart attack in middle-aged men." The University of Kansas has expressed similar views in studies. The Kansas University Medical Center found that men who gave blood experienced 30 percent fewer incidents of heart disease, bypass surgery, and stroke than donors who did not.
Blood donation heroes give a gift that last a lifetime.