This year, the pandemic adds another challenge in keeping the blood supply strong, so the Red Cross is urging healthy people to make an appointment to give blood or platelets this month.
A woman wears a required face mask during the coronavirus pandemic while donating blood at an American Red Cross collection site. Submitted photo / American Red Cross
“We have seen an outpouring of support for people that want to come up and donate, but I think, initially, there was a little bit of a drawback because people didn’t really know what to expect,” said Sue Thesenga, an American Red Cross regional communications manager.
There are thousands of patients a day who rely on lifesaving blood donations — people like Leslie Johnson, whose story the Red Cross listed as an example. In 2005, a farming accident left Johnson with broken bones and massive bleeding. In the first 24 hours after the accident, she received 10 units of blood and platelets.
A man signals he is OK while donating blood to the American Red Cross, a nonprofit that for a limited time is testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. Submitted photo / American Red Cross
“If blood had not been available when she needed it, she might not be here today. I might not have had my mom growing up. It’s my honor to be able to promote blood donation and help pay it forward to others in need,” Johnson’s daughter Emily stated in a news release.
The high school student hosted a blood drive last semester because she recognized the role of blood in helping save her mom’s life. As Leslie Johnson faces additional surgeries to address ongoing injuries from the accident, she may need more blood transfusions.
A man donates blood at a Minnesota collection site for the American Red Cross. Submitted photo / American Red Cross
“By donating blood, it’s a very positive way that people can make an impact and help out. Right now, we’re testing all of our blood donations for (COVID-19) antibodies,” Thesenga said Friday, Jan. 29.
Antibodies are formed when fighting an infection such as COVID-19, but Red Cross officials caution that a positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity and as such the Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test.
“The Red Cross quickly pivoted and put all these safety precautions into place and the governor also called for blood donation as being essential to the health of our communities,” Thesenga said.
COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within one to two weeks in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org, according to officials, and the test has been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“If you make a whole blood donation and your blood tests positive for antibodies, that plasma from it can go towards convalescent plasma. And it will also notify the Red Cross that maybe…