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Hold the sweat, tears, just give blood this month


Last updated 1/15/2020 at 4:10pm | View PDF

There’s a reason why January is designated National Blood Donor Month.

During the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, about 500 fewer blood drives were hosted by volunteer sponsor groups than required to meet patient needs, according to the American Red Cross. Groups postpone blood drives during the winter holidays to avoid conflicts with travel and other seasonal activities.

Life-threatening events and emergency medical procedures, however, never take a holiday.

“Declines in donations can affect patient care. That’s why the Red Cross is encouraging eligible donors to make an appointment to give now and help those sidelined by illness and trauma,” Paul Sullivan, senior vice president of Red Cross Biomedical Services, stated in a press release last week.

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood, the organization reports, and about 4.5 million Americans would die each year without blood transfusions. Cancer patients, burn victims, people suffering from sickle cell and other diseases and those undergoing surgery are all potential recipients.

The good news: Each year an estimated 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate, yielding 13.6 million whole blood and red blood cells.

The challenging news: Only 7 percent of people in the U.S. have type O negative blood, which gave be given to patients of all blood types. So it’s always in great demand and often in short supply. Type AB positive plasma can also be transfused to patients of all blood types, but just 3 percent of Americans are AB positive, so, again, it’s at a premium.

The fact is many have no idea what blood type they are, and donating is a great way to find out. It is neither difficult nor painful (assuming one has survived a tiny needle prick at some point). You are eligible if you are 1) in good physical health and feeling well on donation day, 2) at least 18 years old (16 or 17 with signed consent form), 3) and weigh 110 pounds to donate whole blood (requirements vary slightly for platelet and other types of donations).

The Red Cross’ next donation in the area is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Loyola University Center for Fitness, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood. Visit or call (800) 733-2767 to make an appointment. Speed up the process by pre-submitting health history information in advance and completing an online RapidPass on the day of the donation.

For closer options, Westmont is home to two blood donation centers open year-round: Versiti at 6317 Fairview Ave. and LifeSource at 1133 Fairview Ave. Visit their websites, and, respectively, for more information.

Then, try to drink plenty of caffeine-free beverages in the days leading up to the donation and remember to eat a healthy meal (low in fat and high in iron) at least two hours before. The entire process from registration to post-donation refreshments takes about an hour. And it just might be one of the most consequential hours you spend.


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