To promote blood donation during the summer months – when donations are historically low – the Red Cross is running the #Missing Types Campaign from June 11-30. Many national brands will leave the letters A, B, and O out of their brands, social media pages, signs, and websites it illustrate the critical role blood donors play in helping patients.
Troy Stemen is one of those patients. Troy, a 17-year-old with an upbeat attitude and love for sports and gaming, is a survivor of high-risk acute lymphoma leukemia. During his treatment, he received 37 platelet and 10 red blood cell transfusions from generous Red Cross donors.
He and his mother, Veronica Stemen, recall multiple occasions when he had to wait hours for platelets to become available due to shortages. “My mom and I were both pretty concerned that I wasn’t going to get the platelets in time,” Troy said about one such occasion. “And I became pretty afraid and pretty scared that I might not get better.”
His mom said there was a noticeable difference in her son’s health and energy after getting blood and platelet products. She is grateful to the donors who have helped her son.
“When a child goes through the whole cancer process, you don’t really know what to expect,” said Veronica. “Looking back now, after all the dust has settled, we realize that if we didn’t have blood or platelets that maybe Troy would not be with us today.”
Blood donors came through for Troy. As his story illustrates, however, there are times when the blood on hospital shelves runs dangerously low. Just last month the American Red Cross had only six units of type O blood available for every 100,000 people, but more than twice that is needed every day.
The Red Cross depends on millions of donors to meet this never-ending need. The process only takes about an hour from start to finish, with the donation itself taking 8-10 minutes. Among the requirements are that the potential donor be over age 17 (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law); weigh at least 110 points; and be in generally good health. High school students and other donors 18 years old and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements. Here’s the procedure:
- Bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification to an American Red Cross blood donation center or blood drive.
- You don’t need to know your blood type. After you donate, you’ll be told what it is.
- Drink an extra 16 oz. of liquid before and after donating.
- Eat a healthy meal rich in iron and vitamin C – but low in fat – before you donate.
- Wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be raised above the elbow.
- To save time, you can complete a Rapid Pass on the day of your donation.
If you meed donation criteria, you can safely donate whole blood every 56 days, Power Reds every 112 days, and platelets every seven days. Platelet donations are especially crucial because platelets must be transfused within five days of donation. Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days.
Power Red donors give a concentrated dose of red blood cells. During this type of donation, the red blood cells are separated from other blood components and the plasma and platelets are returned to the donor.
If you have type AB blood, you can maximize your donation by donating plasma because this is the universal plasma type. In an emergency, type AB plasma can be transfused to patients of any blood type. You can donate plasma only, or platelets can be collected at the same time.
Who needs your blood donation? Accident victims. People with blood diseases such as sickle cell disease. Cancer survivors like Derek. You can help meet their need by making an appointment at a Red Cross donation center or a blood drive. You could even host a blood drive yourself! Visit RedCrossBlood.org/MissingTypes, use the Red Cross Blood Donor App or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).