With blood supply shortages across the nation, anytime is a great time to consider rolling up your sleeve. A blood transfusion occurs every two seconds and each donation can save multiple lives. Join the roughly three percent of people who donate blood each year.
In Nebraska, the American Red Cross, which supplies more than 40% of the blood used in American hospitals, and the Nebraska Community Blood Bank (NCBB) provide lifesaving blood donations to local area hospitals and clinics. There has been a 10% decline in the number of people donating blood since the beginning of the pandemic and blood banks continue to confront pandemic-related issues, including ongoing blood drive cancellations. Your donation can help remedy these shortages and save lives.
Founded in 1968, NCBB collected more than a thousand units of blood each week from local volunteer blood donors and held over 500 blood drives with nearly 200 businesses pre-pandemic. Dozens of groups previously supported the blood supply have not resumed blood drives; many high schools, colleges, and workplace drives have declined by nearly 50%. During 2022, NCBB conducted a total of 193 blood drives, 81 of which were hosted by an organization.
“The need for blood never stops,” said Cheryl Warholoski, Director of Operations for the NCBB. “Winter is traditionally a challenging time for blood donation as blood drives slow down and donations can be affected by the holidays and cold and flu season. Blood donation is the ultimate act of kindness. We encourage people across Nebraska to donate this winter and to continue throughout the year.
Currently, only three percent of the population donates blood and is responsible for 100% of the blood needed to support patients in local hospitals. The NCBB needs 1,000 donors a week to keep the supply stable. Blood for donors is used to support 24+ hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state including Bryan Health, Nebraska Medicine, Methodist Health Systems, and Children’s hospital. In Nebraska, there is less than a four-day supply of most blood types. Ideally, a seven-day supply is considered stable. Nationally there is no surplus.
Type O blood is routinely in short supply and in high demand by hospitals. O positive is the most common blood type (found in 37% of Americans) and type O negative blood (found in seven percent of Americans) is the universal blood type needed for emergency transfusions and immune-deficient infants. The universal red cell donor has Type O negative blood. The universal plasma donor has Type AB blood. Those with these blood types are especially encouraged to become donors. You do not need to know your blood type to donate. However, you can find out by visiting your doctor, going to a hospital, visiting a clinical laboratory that tests blood, or donating blood.
To become an NCBB donor visit https://www.ncbb.org/ or call 1-877-486-9414.
A blood donor card, driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
If you are nervous about becoming a donor, the following tips can help your donation go smoothly.
Before your donation
- Eat iron-rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, spinach, iron-fortified cereals, or raisins.
- Get a good night’s sleep and drink extra liquids to be sure you are hydrated.
- If you’re going to donate platelets, do not take aspirin products for two days prior to your appointment.
During your donation
- Bring a photo ID and a list of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you take.
- If you received a COVID-19 vaccine, remember the name of the manufacturer, and inform staff.
- Wear a short-sleeve shirt or shirt with sleeves you can roll up to your elbows.
- Let the staff know of a preferred arm or particular vein that has been successfully used to draw blood in the past.
- Relax, listen to music, or meditate.
After your donation
- Relax for a few minutes and have a snack. Many donation sites offer complimentary cookies and juice.
- Drink an extra four (8 oz.) glasses of liquid and avoid alcohol for 24 hours.
- Spread awareness by letting others know that you donated.
If you are unable to donate blood, you can support Nebraska’s blood donation efforts through a gift of time through a variety of NCBB programs. Please visit https://www.ncbb.org/support-us/volunteer/ to learn about how you can make a difference and help save lives today!