3 minute readBlood

Why I’m Now a Red Cross Blood Donor for Life

Katie holding up a sign that says "I give blood because my mom inspired me to give!"

My mom is the type of person who gives without thinking. She has participated in blood drives for as long as I can remember, always taking the opportunity to donate when my elementary school hosted a drive. She doesn’t consider herself a hero, and neither do many of the people who donate their blood regularly to the American Red Cross.

For more than 30 years now, my mom has worked in labs at Quest Diagnostics, and now Johns Hopkins Hospital. A lot of her work has involved testing blood and other fluids for disease. She’s not the squeamish type–definitely not scared of needles. I’ve always been a little more hesitant with needles; while I’m not afraid of needles, I had been fine with avoiding them.

But my mom has always been rather matter-of-fact about donating blood. She always just shrugs and says that it’s not a significant sacrifice of time, and that she knows she’s helping people. I must admit, I didn’t truly understand the worth of her donation until this year.

When I saw that the Red Cross was hiring an intern, I immediately thought back to waiting for my mom in the lobby of my elementary school. (I always knew that after she gave, I would get to eat her chocolate chip cookies so I looked forward to blood drives at school.) At the time, I did not understand the point behind the numerous phone calls from the Red Cross reminding her to sign up for her next appointment.

Experiencing the humanitarian mission firsthand

This past spring, I interned at Red Cross National Headquarters in the Communications Department from January to May of 2018, and during that brief period, I fell in love with the organization. After my first week, I knew that I needed to sign up to give blood. I was hearing and seeing the Red Cross mission at work, and I wanted to actively be a part of that mission.

Though giving blood may at first feel like an indirect donation, the Red Cross does its due diligence to ensure that donors understand the weight of their gift. The Red Cross Blood Donor App makes it easy for you to find a drive nearby and a time that works for you. When I first arrived at the Dr. Charles Drew Donation Center at Red Cross Square in Washington, D.C., I was welcomed in without having to wait. The process was streamlined and efficient, with email and text reminders before my appointment.

As I was giving blood, there were pictures of people whose lives had been saved by donations on the walls around me. It was a great reminder that this moment of discomfort could potentially save someone’s life. After my appointment, I received information about my blood type, and I was also informed where my blood was sent (Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland). I have already scheduled my next blood donation. I would encourage anyone to look at blood drives near you, and take an hour out of your day to give–because it could help save a life.

Katie sitting on a chair in the blood center before her blood donation.

Helping to fill the Missing Types this summer

This summer, the Red Cross is looking for new donors (like me) and those who haven’t given in a while – to donate and help ensure lifesaving blood is available for patients in need. It’s part of an international effort called the Missing Types campaign. You may notice the letters A, B and O – representing the main blood groups – missing from signage, websites, social media and other public-facing platforms to illustrate the critical role every blood donor plays. A few missing letters may not seem like a big deal, but for a hospital patient who needs type A, B or O blood, these letters mean life.

Join me this summer and become a Red Cross blood donor for life!

To join the #MissingType movement—make an appointment to give blood by visiting redcrossblood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). All blood types are needed.

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

 Katie holding a board that says "#MissingType."

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  1. Hello, I’ve been a consistent donor having giving over 18 gallons. I recently discovered and had prostate surgery for cancer. I am 69 and have yearly checkups since 65. my last checkup showed sharp increase in my psa reading resulting in further tests finding high cancer cells in prostate. I had donated at least 4 or 5 times between Dr appointments which meant my blood was tested each time. I am questioning and recommending that a certain risk group (say men over 55) why doesn’t the Red Cross install a test to check blood samples for psa readings. I am not sure when I developed cancer but feel that I must have had it at one of my last donations, does that mean that I could have spread that to some recipient? If cost is a factor maybe giving the donor a chance to pay for it would be an option, I certainly would have liked to known sooner about my prostate cancer!!!! Thank You for your time, hopefully back to giving blood once I’m determined to be cancer free. Fred Chenevey

  2. Dear Fred, Thank you for your inquiry. At the American Red Cross, we care about the health and welfare of our donors as well as ensuring the safety of the nation’s blood supply—which is why samples from all blood donations are tested for multiple infectious diseases. However, it is important to note that the Red Cross does not perform disease related diagnostic testing on donor blood samples.

    The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that men who are considering PSA screening first discuss the risks and benefits with their doctors. As more has been learned about both the benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening, a number of organizations have begun to caution again routine population screening. For more information, please visit the NCI website https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/psa-fact-sheet#q2 . Thank you