With no substitute for blood and no way to manufacture it, volunteer donors are essential for hospital patients in need of transfusions. During National Volunteer Month this April, the American Red Cross is celebrating the blood, platelet and plasma donors who help fulfill its lifesaving mission and urging healthy individuals to join them in giving.
Nearly 2.6 million Red Cross volunteer donors step up every year to ensure blood is on the shelves when patients need it. The generosity of these heroes has been especially impactful over the past year as they helped the Red Cross continue to meet patient needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Red Cross continues to urge healthy individuals, especially those with type O blood, to give blood to ensure hospitals can meet patient needs. Schedule a donation appointment by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.
As a special thank-you, those who come to give by April 30 will automatically be entered for a chance to win one of five $1,000 e-gift cards to a merchant of choice. Additional details are available at rcblood.org/Gift.
Health insights for donors
The Red Cross is testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms. Testing may also identify the presence of antibodies developed after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Plasma from routine blood and platelet donations that test positive for high levels of antibodies may be used as convalescent plasma to meet potential future needs of COVID-19 patients. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood product collected from COVID-19 survivors who have antibodies that may help patients who are actively fighting the virus.
The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is also screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.
Donors can expect to receive antibody test and sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
Blood drive safety
Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face masks for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.