Why donating blood is so important as nation faces ‘dangerously low blood supply levels’

People living with sickle cell disease need frequent transfusions

The American Red Cross has now declared a national blood crisis and said the nation is facing the worst shortage of blood in more than a decade.

Beaumont Health and Michigan Medicine are both calling on more people to give blood. Beaumont has been forced to delay some elective surgeries.

Read: Red Cross declares blood crisis as US faces ‘dangerously low blood supply levels’

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to make it very difficult to collect sufficient blood. In addition to the blood needed for traumas and surgeries, there are patients who need frequent transfusions just to survive.

That includes many people with sickle cell disease. The red cross is urging people to remember those relying on donations.

Deandra Smith from Redford Township was 2 years old when she was diagnosed with sickle cell disease.

“A normal cell lives for 120 days but people with sickle cell our blood cells only last 12 to 15 so our blood cells are dying faster than they are regenerating,” Smith said. “It’s been like a roller coaster ride. I lost partial vision in my right eye. I’ve had my gallbladder removed two reconstructive knee surgeries. I’ve been hospitalized over 75 times.”

She lost her job during the pandemic and said it was the biggest blessing she’d ever had. She did a Google search for “sickle cell jobs” and found the position of a sickle cell account manager with the Red Cross.

Smith is now working to educate others about sickle cell and the need for blood. She is also working hard to increase the diversity of blood donors.

For patients who require frequent transfusions, it is important to have blood that matches other factors beyond basic blood type. Recipients are most likely to find that match in donors of a similar race and ethnic background.

Read: More blood donation coverage

You can donate blood every 46 days and up to six times a year. You must be in good health and feeling well. You must be at least 16 years old in most states. You must weigh at least 110 pounds. Click here to find a blood drive near you.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.