Cold Weather Causes Shortfall During Blood Donor Month
It’s one of the single most important things a person can do to save a life, but not nearly enough people give blood. Luckily, January is usually the slowest month for blood donation, so the Red Cross has named it National Blood Donor Month. But even despite the slight downturn, supplies still ran short.
This beaten-to-death phrase popped up in everyone’s lexicon for a couple weeks after Christmas, as the mass of extremely cold air that usually hovers farther north in the Arctic wobbled free and came south. The effects were devastating: an ice storm in Canada, the Great Lakes region, and New England froze time for over a week, heavy snowfall in the Northeast slowed things down quite a bit, and the Midwest even got a physical taste of winter themselves.
The bad winter weather caused a shortage of blood supply to areas like Virginia, as 280-320 blood drives in 25 states were cancelled. The Mid-Atlantic region suffered a shortfall of about 900 pints, while the total shortage amounted to 8,400 blood and platelet donations.
How Does Blood Donation Work?
The process takes about an hour, and is divided into four parts: registration, medical history and mini-physical, donation, and post-donation refreshments. The actual donation itself takes about 10 minutes, with the rest of the time spent on things like taking blood pressure, measuring hemoglobin, and monitoring the donor after to make sure they’ve regained their strength. And because blood regenerates itself so quickly, donors can come back after 56 days.
There’s roughly 5L of blood in the human body, or about 10 pints, and a blood donation consists of only one pint. Having 10% of your blood taken in one go may sound like a lot, but consider water in a senior’s body: they’re composed of about 50% water, of which approximately 22-ish liters of that is intracellular fluid. The bladder has room for about 600mL of liquid, with urination starting to happen around the quarter-liter mark. So every day, a senior urinates more in liquid than you would lose in one blood donation — and that blood starts to regenerate the day you donate.
For one hour of your time and having to endure a pinprick that’s over in the time it takes to blink (the only reason the needle is so big is to prevent the red blood cells from being damaged), this is what you get in return:
- Free quick health exam: A visit to the doctor can cost up to hundreds of dollars, but a trip to the Red Cross- where you’ll get many of the same once-overs- doesn’t cost a cent.
- Reduced risk of cancer: It used to be thought that giving blood resulted in a higher risk of cancer, but it seems the opposite is true, as higher levels of iron — a metal that’s present in blood — can help lower the risk.
- Reduction in: Blood pressure, blood glucose, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), HDL/LDL (cholesterol) ratio, and heart rate.
- Saves lives: One donation of blood can save up to three lives.