While we have been consumed by news of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus for the past year and life slowed, we have to remember that other medical conditions necessitating transfusion treatment did not stop such as sickle cell anemia, cancer and surgeries. In fact, the critical need for blood became so urgent in April 2020 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed the recommended celibacy requirement from 12 months to 3 months for men who have sex with other men. This is definitely a step in the right direction for a policy that needs to be reevaluated, overhauled and updated. (Note: new and welcome updates on this topic as of May 11, 2023.)
Couple that with the fact that many of us are feeling bewildered, isolated and hopeless as we enter some of the darkest months of the COVID-19 pandemic. These feelings are perfectly normal.
So, how do you regain some sense of normalcy, hope and helpfulness to society? Hemopet suggests donating blood if you can or encouraging five others to do so if you cannot. Most importantly, please make it a habit to donate whole blood every 56 days, red blood cells every 112 days, or platelets every seven days – not just once a year, not when a convenient blood drive comes around, or during critical shortages.
Think about the ongoing daily need from this perspective:
- Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed daily in the U.S.
- Nearly 7,000 units of platelets are needed daily in the U.S.
- 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
Then take into account the narrow window of time:
- Red blood cells should be used within 42 days (or less).
- Platelets must be used within just 5 days.
- Less than 38% of the U.S. population qualifies to donate blood, but,
- Less than 3% of the U.S. population actually donates blood.
In essence, approximately 1/3 of the population who can donate blood, do not do so.
The Benefits to You
- The American Red Cross will run a SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, antibody test in addition to a free blood analysis for other diseases like syphilis, hepatitis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Burn approximately up to 650 calories giving a pint of blood.
- Can reduce the risk of cancer.
- Reduces harmful iron overload stores, if present.
- Preserves cardiovascular health and thus reduces chances of heart failure or damage.
- A sense of giving back to society naturally and freely.
Don’t Just Think of the Red Cross
The Red Cross is wonderful and hosts many mobile donation drives. However, there also are several permanent local and regional centers that collect blood donations. So, look around and commit to one of these organizations.
Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19 Treatment
In August 2020, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to be given as a treatment option for COVID-19. Since then, convalescent plasma transfusion therapy for COVID-19 has been mired in confusion as to whether or not it is a beneficial therapy. Then, we hear about a critical need for convalescent plasma.
The American Society of Hematologists provides the best review of the treatment option:
“While many patients improved clinically, the specific role of COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) is unclear, because all patients received at least one additional therapy, including antivirals, antibiotics or antifungals, and/or corticosteroids. Mortality was lower in patients who received CCP within 3 days of diagnosis of COVID-19, and in those who received units of CCP with higher specific IgG levels, however, uniform testing for neutralizing antibodies was not performed.”
“Convalescent plasma was observed to be relatively safe, with comparable risk to that of non-immune plasma. The incidence of severe adverse events was less than 1%, most of which were deemed to be unrelated to CCP.”
During the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) crisis of the early 1980’s, it became apparent that the disease could be transmitted by transfusions of HIV contaminated blood. W. Jean Dodds was the Executive Director, New York State Council on Human Blood and Transfusion Services, at the time and remembers how little information we had about how the virus was spread and the panic that was seizing the nation. What researchers did know is that blood transfusions were a part of the problem.
One evening, she was driving home and thought that we also needed a canine blood bank that would enable animal transfusion medicine to be practical, safe and affordable. So, she started Hemopet as a closed colony canine blood bank to reduce and eliminate the chances of blood-borne diseases amongst those dogs needing blood products. All of our canines have DEA 4 blood type and are thus considered to be true “universal” blood donors, which means that they can safely donate blood for any canine patient, regardless of the patient’s blood type.
Since the AIDS Crisis
Many people are fearful of receiving blood transfusions. However, the AIDS epidemic – which is far from over these days – ushered in advancements in detection for many blood-borne diseases. The window of detection for HIV was once six to eight weeks and is now down to 7 to 14 days. These days, there is only a 1 in 1.5 million chance of acquiring HIV through a blood transfusion. In fact, the last time a blood transfusion caused a patient to contract HIV was in 2008. Since then, a fourth-generation HIV test was developed in 2010.
Human blood transfusions are safe. Therefore, the FDA’s policy on time deferrals should be revised and updated based on science.
Make donating blood a habit to save our communities and encouraging others to do the same!