January is National Blood Donor Month!
In honor of the occasion we’d like to share a little history of our blood donor program. In 1936, the Red Cross, obtained permission to organize blood transfusions on an experimental basis. The Augusta, Ga., chapter inaugurated the first Red Cross volunteer blood donor service in August 1937. Some 500 volunteer donors signed up within the first few days. By 1938, volunteer blood donor programs were launched at 12 chapters along the East Coast.
In 1940, American Red Cross signed on to the “Plasma for Britain,” program, whereby liquid plasma obtained through donors was sent to Great Britain to aid military and civilian casualties. The “Plasma for Britain” program ended in January 1941, when Great Britain announced that it was producing enough of its own plasma. The American Red Cross was then asked by the U.S. Armed Forces to create and operate a national blood donor program. In addition to liquid plasma, the Red Cross began to produce, dried plasma. Dried plasma had a longer shelf life and could easily be rehydrated overseas using purified water. The World War II blood program collected more than 13 million units of blood from 14.7 million donors.
Following the war, since few hospitals had blood banks, the Red Cross introduced a national civilian blood program, the largest peacetime health project undertaken by the organization. The first regional blood center opened in Rochester, New York in 1948. We never looked back! Every year, the American Red Cross collects more than 6 million units of blood from some 3.5 million generous donors. This is distributed to patients at approximately 3,000 hospitals and transfusion centers.
Thank you, blood donors!