Time to Donate Blood and Plasma
The time to donate blood is now. The current blood supply is dangerously low. Blood donations have greatly dwindled. Many scheduled blood draws were cancelled due to the pandemic.
You can either make a allogeneic/homologous donation where the blood goes into storage at a blood bank for transfusion to an unknown recipient. Or, you can make a directed donation to a specific person with the same blood type.
And, consider making a double red cells donation also known as a power red donation. You can safely donate two units of red blood cells but get the plasma and platelets back.
But blood donations of all types and all racial groups are needed now more than ever. In addition to replenishing the blood supply, there are many other reasons to donate blood.
Donate Blood to Identify Coronavirus Antibodies
Many blood donation facilities are also testing for coronavirus antibodies. Our bodies’ immune system develop proteins, known as antibodies, in response to fight off the infection. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly everyone who recovers from covid-19 have these antibodies in their blood.
The test for covid-19 antibodies is different than the test for the virus itself. So be sure to get the antibody test even if you did not display symptoms. And if your blood test indicates the presence of coronavirus antibodies, please also donate your plasma.
Donate Plasma for Transfusions
Some facilities will even pay you for your plasma donation. But that is not why RPCVs do what we do.
Plasma donations typically helps boost a patient’s blood volume, help with blood clotting, prevent shock, and more. But today, your plasma can also help in the recovery of someone currently battling covid-19.
A treatment, called convalescent plasma, transfuses the plasma from someone with covid-19 antibodies into someone who is currently battling covid-19. The expectation is for the donor’s antibodies to help give the recipient’s immune system a boost in fighting the virus.
However, a recent published study indicates that the coronavirus antibodies may only last a couple of months. Did you have covid-19? Did you get exposed to covid-19 without developing symptoms? If so, you might have the coronavirus antibodies. And even if you don’t have the antibodies, your plasma donation would still help the recipient not fighting covid-19.
All Racial Groups Need to Donate Blood
Blood donors with genetically-similar blood can be better matches for recipients from the same racial background. Racial populations have certain rare compatibility traits in their blood that are unique and needed within that racial group.
When a donor’s blood carry a rare variant, that donation can save the lives of others with that same variant. If the body does not recognize the antigens from the donated blood, it can trigger a dangerous immune response. But a greater match means fewer potential health problems especially for recipients suffering from serious blood diseases like Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia. Unfortunately, non-white racial groups make up a very small portion of blood and plasma donors.
Who Can or Cannot Donate Blood
As Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), it is in our nature to step up and lend a hand where needed. Make the appointment to donate, host a blood drive, raise awareness, and encourage others to donate. First time donors are more likely to donate if they know a donor or a person needing a donation.
However, you must meet certain criteria to be eligible to donate. But is it time to improve the process to increase and encourage donors? Some facilities reject donors without the English proficiency to complete the donor form or verbally answer questions. Some facilities would prefer to turn down blind or visually-impaired donors instead of providing forms digitally (with assistive technology) or in large print or Braille.
Unfortunately, FDA criteria also prevent men from donating if they have been in a sexual relationship with another man in the last 12 months. But due to the blood supply shortage from covid-19, the FDA recently revised its restriction to 3 months. This restriction does not apply to women or to men with any number of women partners. Despite health experts guidance and the advanced testing procedures to detect a range of potential diseases regardless of the donor’s gender or frequency of sexual activity, the FDA refuse to further reduce or eliminate this restriction.
Other than restrictions, blood and blood plasma donation is not for everyone. Some conditions, situations, and medications means legitimately not being able to donate. And some inexperienced technicians tend to traumatize people. So please be sensitive and respectful of people who do not or cannot donate. But try to encourage those who can.