Donating blood is safe and in urgent need
One overlooked effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the sharp drop in blood donations across the county and, for that matter, across the world. One pint of donated blood can save up to three lives, according to the American Red Cross, and stocks of blood and, just as importantly, plasma have come in very short supply. On average, 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed in the U.S. each day, says the Red Cross.
Because of limitations placed on gatherings of larger groups, the Red Cross was forced to cancel thousands upon thousands of blood drives across the county since the pandemic hit the U.S. in force last spring. These cancellations have resulted in a critical shortage of blood across the county.
Furthermore, and unbeknownst to many, it is perfectly safe to give blood during the pandemic. “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” said United States Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, who has been imploring healthy Americans to donate blood to help alleviate the current shortage.
Currently, the Garth Englund Blood Center in Fort Collins, part of the UC Health apparatus, is accepting appointments for blood and plasma donations. According to the Garth Englund website, “To donate blood, a person must be at least 18 years old (or 17 with a parent’s permission) and show photo identification. New blood donors must weigh at least 120 pounds and be in good health. Prior donors must weigh at least 110 pounds with no complications during previous donations.”
The entire process, including completing the necessary paperwork, takes only 30 to 45 minutes while the actual time the donor spends in the chair completing the actual donation of one unit of blood, one pint or 16 oz worth, taking only five to 10 minutes and is a mostly painless process.
Another added benefit to donating blood or plasma is that all donations are tested for COVID-19 antibodies. According to the Red Cross, “An antibody test screens for antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are formed when fighting infection, like COVID-19. An antibody test assesses whether your immune systems has responded to the infection, not if the virus is currently present. Specifically, the COVID-19 antibody test used by the Red Cross is available through Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Test results may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to the coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms.”
After making a blood or plasma donation, a small amount of the donation is sent to a lab and subjected to a routine screening for the COVID-19 (and other) antibodies. One to two weeks after donating, a donor can simply log on to the blood donor website or mobile app, information on both will be provided at the time of the donation, and see the results of the antibody test as well as what the Red Cross calls a “mini-physical” and get information related to the donor’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate and iron levels.
Those who have had COVID-19 and made a recovery are being asked to make blood and plasma donations as well. The presence of the antibodies in the convalescent plasma in recovered COVID-19 patients is currently being evaluated as a possible avenue of treatment for COVID patients who are suffering from some of the more extreme, and rarer, affects of the virus.
Further information about blood and plasma donations, antibody testing, and other related matters can be found at https://www.redcrossblood.org/faq.html#donating-blood-covid-19-convalescent-plasma. The UC Health Garth Englund Blood Center is located at 1025 Pennock Place Suite 104 in Fort Collins and can be reached at (970) 495-8965 or https://www.uchealth.org/locations/garth-englund-blood-donation-center-fort-collins//.
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