Donating blood is about the most selfless act you can perform. When you donate blood, you save lives. It is quick and easy, and right now, it’s critical because there is a blood supply shortage that we need to address.

Why is there a blood supply shortage?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the blood centers across the country have seen fewer donors and less opportunities for blood drives to meet demand. 

What happens when you donate blood?

It takes less than an hour to donate blood. First staff will check your body temperature and blood pressure. Then you get to lie back and relax for a while. Your blood is tested to be sure it is safe for patients in need. 

Blood and plasma are then distributed to hospitals and health centers. Cancer patients are the most common recipients, but additional supplies are needed for surgeries, accident victims, and burn patients. 

The dangers of low blood supplies

"It's not a local issue, it's a national, even international issue," said Dr. Francois Luks, surgeon-in-chief at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. "We are always worried about any particular case that would require a lot of blood, such as extensive trauma or major surgery -- those are things that definitely make us worry."

In addition, we never know when the next mass casualty situation could arise. Since the pandemic began, blood supplies have been down and that could impact patient care at any time. Once supplies of blood reach critical levels, hospitals may be forced to make difficult decisions, including being selective on who needs blood products.

Dr. Phyllis Dennery is the medical director of Hasbro Children’s Hospital. She says, “Blood is essential in allowing us to provide the most advanced pediatric medical care to our young patients. During this time, when adequate blood supply has been critically low, we look to our generous community and encourage them to consider donating blood.”

Who can donate blood?

The Rhode Island Blood Center requires donors to be 17 years of age or older, but there is no limit on how old you can be to donate! Depending on the type of donation you are making, there may be a minimum weight requirement as well.

There are exceptions though. You cannot donate if you:

  • are pregnant
  • are currently taking antibiotics for infection
  • have cold or flu symptoms
  • have had hepatitis B or C
  • have any sexually transmitted diseases

Donate blood today near you

Dr. Luks, Dr. Dennery, and the entire medical community are hoping more people will choose to make the life-saving decision to donate. "It's certainly a time of great need and most importantly, it's never been safer to donate," said Dr. Luks.

For more information on where you can donate and how to prepare for your donation, please visit the Rhode Island Blood Center website.

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.