Alma had just received a letter from her son. It left her feeling relieved and broken-hearted at the same time. He was writing from Korea to tell her he was okay. But he was writing from a MASH unit! He’d been wounded, he wrote, and had needed a blood transfusion. “But he’s okay,” Alma kept reassuring herself. “He’s okay.”
Once again, the Red Cross was helping her: It was thanks to the Red Cross that he had received that blood transfusion. She knew about the involvement of the Red Cross in blood collection, becoming a donor as soon as the Central Ohio Chapter resumed blood collection in 1948. That was the year the organization had begun the first nationwide blood program for civilians.
Since Alma’s day, the Red Cross has become a major player in both blood research and blood banking, currently supplying over 40 percent of the nation’s blood. The Central Ohio Chapter is the largest blood processing center in U.S. This chapter manufactures one million blood products annually and supplies 41 hospitals.
Donating blood is a relatively simple process. After completing a questionnaire that assures health and medical requirements are met and speaking with a nurse, the donor gives a pint of blood, or perhaps only platelets. Because blood can be processed into its components and these components given to different recipients, the donor leaves knowing he or she has saved up to three lives.
Blood processing, however is not so simple, and the Red Cross has been at the forefront of developing and standardizing procedures for doing so. During World War II, the U.S. Armed Forces asked the Red Cross to start and run a blood donor program to collect blood for the British Isles, and the first bloodmobile began operation on March 10, 1941. During the 1960s, the Red Cross opened several labs to study such topics as how to improve preservation of blood components, automate blood grouping, and develop a product to help people with hemophilia. The organization has continued to develop methods of preserving and using blood components.
The Red Cross has also been instrumental in ensuring the safety of the blood supply. Currently, Red Cross testing laboratories perform a dozen tests on each donation – and there are more than six million donations per year! Threats such as AIDS, Hepatitis B and the Zika virus have made it necessary to test for these as well as other diseases.
Who needs blood and blood products? Trauma victims, of course, who must have transfusions to replace the blood they have lost. Burn survivors and patients with leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease may also need blood or blood products.
Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, but between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, blood donations decrease. Why not change that this year? Start a new holiday tradition by making an appointment to give blood with family members. Just use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @Red Cross