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Why you should consider becoming a blood donor this year

Since 1970, January has been designated as National Blood Donor Month with the goal of increasing the number of blood and platelet donations around the country.

man giving blood donation
Photo by Luann Hunt

U.S. blood supply comes from volunteer donors nationwide. Once complete, their blood is stored in a hospital blood bank and is always at the ready to be used to save the life of a patient in need. However, during the winter months, it is often the most difficult time of the year to collect enough blood donations to help meet patient needs.

Many different patients need blood transfusions after being involved in traumatic incidents, such as car accidents; cancer patients who are having treatment; surgery patients who lose blood during their procedure; and infants who are being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Furthermore, becoming a blood donor is a great humanitarian act that directly impacts and improves the lives of the sick and injured. By choosing to donate blood at any blood collection site, you are contributing to the health and well-being of others.

“The Blood Donor Center at Children’s National Hospital collects blood that will only be used for the children that are being cared for by the hospital,” says Meghan Delaney, D.O., M.P.H., division chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Division and director of Transfusion Medicine at Children’s National. “Therefore, donating blood to Children’s National Hospital is a unique way to improve the lives of children that live in our local community, as well the children that come to the hospital for the specialized care we offer from all over the country and the world.”

When deciding to donate blood, there is no limit to the types of blood accepted and needed. For life-threatening emergencies there are certain types of red blood cells used before there’s time to check the patient’s blood type, specifically, group O, and especially group O, Rh negative.

“We always need more group AB donors to donate platelets,” Dr. Delaney says. “Donors with African ancestry are also needed, as their blood types are most likely to be a good match for children who are afflicted by sickle cell disease. Often these children depend on blood transfusions throughout their lives.”

The Montgomery County MD Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has been hosting a blood drive since 2017 in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  In 2018, over 40 donors were seen and collected close to 30 units. This year, the organization is hosting another drive in downtown Silver Spring on Monday, Jan. 20, and a large majority of these units will go toward helping sickle cell anemia patients.

However, the need for blood donations is constant and Children’s National Blood Donor Center collects blood most days of the week and on a year-round basis. The hospital website also provides detailed information about how to become a blood donor, steps for setting up an appointment and the eligibility requirements. If you’re interested in making a larger impact, or if you want to help but don’t qualify as a blood donor yourself, you can set up a blood drive for your workplace or local community.

“We will bring the Children’s National blood mobile to your group and collect as many donors as we can in one day,” Dr. Delaney says. “This is a great time of year to get involved by becoming a blood donor and supporting others to become blood donors. All donors should feel welcome to come to Children’s National Blood Donor Center and become a blood donor today!”

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