January is National Blood Donor Month

As the bringer of every New Year, January is often considered a fresh start, a time for renewal. We definitely need it physically, as the residual effects of our NYE celebrations slowly wear off, but we often need it mentally as well. That’s where the popular tradition of resolutions comes in.

The holidays are over, we are all returning to the familiar work grind, but there’s something about January that makes us all want to make promises of change and set goals to achieve. We do this with the best of intentions—though sometimes our attention may wander after some time when we’ve settled into our routines again.

But right now, we are all still thinking about how to make the forthcoming year different than the last, and making that happens looks different for all of us. Some may opt for a Dry January, others may resolve to budget better or travel more, and I’d wager most of us want to get back to the gym after what’s probably been an indulgent holiday season.

(Do desserts taste better in December? I do wonder, but I don’t want to digress.)

Among all of your own personal resolutions for 2022, whatever they may be, I want to throw another possibility out there for you. Don’t worry—not only is this one easy to check off your makeshift list, it also only requires minimal effort.

The best part? It benefits an incredibly worthy cause as well.

Why Do We Need Blood Donor Month?

In addition to featuring New Year’s Day, January is also recognized as National Blood Donor Month, having been celebrated as such for nearly 50 years according to the American Red Cross. But while you may have known about this distinction for this first month of the year, did you know that this time of year is one of the most difficult times to maintain a sufficient blood supply?

Why is that? Because while the holiday season often brings joy, this period immediately after coincides with cold/flu season, particularly inclement weather (that restricts our access to blood banks), and busy schedules, all of which contributes to straining the resources medical personnel have to help save those in need.

Hospitals Need Blood Donations. No, Really.

Now you may be wondering how much blood is really necessary on a day-to-day basis, and I’d like to clarify the common misconception that it’s only needed in emergency situations like natural disasters or other mass injury/casualty events. The reality is that there are everyday transfusion needs for people such as:

  • Cancer patients;
  • People with chronic disorders (e.g. sickle cell disease);
  • Transplant and other surgical patients; and
  • Newborn babies and their mothers, as well as many more.

With the steady need for blood mixed with sometimes unpredictable demands (emergencies), blood banks often times fall below a healthy supply level, hence January’s designation as Blood Donor Month.

COVID-19’s Devastating Effect on Our Blood Supply

What’s more is, these trends are historical but the situation over the last couple of years has grown even more dire as a result of this global pandemic we’re all still living through. At the beginning of these unprecedented circumstances, blood collection was slowed due to uncertainty, safety precautions, and donor fears / confusion around donations. Given how difficult everything else has been since the pandemic began, it’s no surprise how challenging it has become for blood banks to replenish their stores and stay on track.

As such, the effect of COVID-19 has left our blood supply at critically low levels—the Red Cross has posted to their site that they are experiencing their worst blood shortage in a decade. These dangerously low blood supply levels have unfortunately forced some hospitals to even defer patients from major surgery, including those previously mentioned organ transplants.

So, if you are searching for a worthy resolution for your 2022, I’d ask you to please consider helping with this desperate situation and donate at a blood bank near you.

I realize that this is a personal choice, but I can say that should you opt to do this, I’m right there with you. Having donated multiple times, I’ve decided it’s one of the simplest contributions that I can make to directly impact another person’s life, and I want to up the ante this year. There is no substitute for human blood, and until that day comes, those in need of it are relying on donations from people like you and me. Admittedly, I don’t usually make resolutions; however, this year I have recommitted to donating blood as frequently as I am able.

How Often Can You Give Blood?

So, how frequent is that?

Here’s the deal according to the Red Cross:

  • You can donate blood up to six times a year. You must wait at least eight weeks (56 days) between donations of whole blood.
  • You can also donate platelets through a process called apheresis (which is a much cooler way to say “to take away”). Platelet donors may give every 7 days up to 24 times per year.

Depending on which kind of donation you opt for, the time you’ll spend varies. If you’re giving whole blood, to take a pint of that takes about 8-10 minutes. But if you’re donating platelets, red cells or plasma by apheresis, you should know that collection can take up to 2 hours.

Whichever you do, the whole of your time will be spent relaxing, which makes for an ideal resolution to check off for the year, in my opinion. But, if you have reservations, concerns, or questions about donating, you can call/visit your local blood center website or a national resource such as the American Red Cross—they can answer your questions more definitively.

But as we all turn the page onto 2022, I want to wish you luck with all of your other resolutions—no matter what they may be, I hope you check every single one off your list. Happy New Year!

About the Author

Kristen Wilbur

Kristen Wilbur is a Director at Schellman, with over 10 years of experience in providing IT attestation and compliance services. Kristen has evaluated risk and controls for Global 1000, Fortune 500, and regional companies during the course of her career with a strong focus in the technology sector. Kristen currently leads the New York City practice at Schellman where she specializes in SOC 1, SOC 2, ISO 27001, and HIPAA reporting. In her portfolio she also oversees large scale engagements that include assessments around FedRAMP, HITRUST, and Privacy. Kristen has a strong passion for giving back and recently helped to establish the corporate social responsibility program at Schellman called SchellmanCARES.

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