Is it safe to donate blood right now? Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said not only is donating blood safe, it’s essential. “People are scared to go to the doctor’s office right now and I really think that’s an unfounded fear.” At most doctor’s offices, you sit out in your car until you’re texted and told you can come in, so nobody’s in the waiting room. “I would think that blood donation sites are in a position where they can adopt those exact same kinds of measures,” he added.
The Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center, in cooperation with Up & Coming Weekly and Carolina Specialties International, is conducting a mobile blood drive Sept. 30 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in Up & Coming Weekly’s rear parking lot at 208 Rowan Street. Donors will receive free COVID-19 antibody tests and gift bags. Residents who pre-register will be eligible to win a door prize.
The Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center is a community program that serves patients in Cumberland, Hoke, Harnett and Bladen Counties through donations made by individual donors, community organizations and businesses. Dianne Carter, Cape Fear Valley’s Mobile Recruitment Coordinator, said our area is critically low in blood supplies and has been for several months. Donations from local high school students stopped abruptly in March as the result of the coronavirus pandemic. Students have historically provided 40% of the blood donated in our area, Carter said.
To qualify as blood donors, individuals must be at least 16 years old with signed parental consent. Teens 17 years of age do not need that consent. Prospective donors must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Positive proof of identification is required. Be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast or lunch. Donors should be well hydrated in the days before and after a donation. Avoid caffeine. Wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be easily rolled up above the elbow.
According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. It is essential for surgeries, cancer treatments, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries. Whether a patient receives whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma, this lifesaving care begins with one person making one donation. In our community the Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center receive and distributes blood units, not the Red Cross. All donations made here stay here. “It is very important for the people in our community to donate to maintain a safe, sufficient supply of blood to save lives locally,” Carter said. “It can literally mean life or death.”
The American Cancer Society says more than 1.8 million people nationwide are expected to have been diagnosed with cancer this year. Many of them require blood, sometimes daily, during chemotherapy treatment. “Roughly 38% of Americans are healthy enough to donate and the national average shows only 10% of them are donating,” Carter added. “In our community, only 2% ... are donating at least once a year. We need the other 98% of the community to step up.”
Officials say this area requires 1,200 units of blood per month to meet the needs of Cape Fear Valley Health System patients. The blood type most often requested is type O. Under normal circumstances, “We struggle to collect 900 units of blood a month,” Carter said. But currently only 300-400 units are contributed on average. Carter told Up & Coming Weekly the health system purchases the rest of the blood from other blood banks, but donor centers across the nation are experiencing shortages.
On the day of donation, individuals will complete a brief health questionnaire. Some donor contributions may be temporarily delayed. Tattoos and body piercings received from licensed North Carolina parlors are acceptable, if the tattoos have healed. Tattoos and piercings received outside our state will result in a 12-month deferral. Having a cold or flu or recent surgery or being under a physician’s care will result in delay. Recent or current diagnosis of cancer could result in a delay. Pregnant women have to wait six weeks after delivery to donate.
Some people are permanently rejected: Anyone who has lived in Europe between 1980 and 1996 for periods totaling five years or more or specifically traveled to or lived in the United Kingdom for more than three months between 1980 and 1996 is ineligible. Members of the U.S. military or their dependents stationed six months or more between 1980 and 1990 in Belgium, Netherlands or Germany or six months or more between 1980 and 1996 in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece or Turkey will be denied.
Anyone with questions about eligibility, can call the Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center at 910-615-LIFE or visit www.savingliveslocally.org.