Today, we are in the midst of an alarming blood shortage nationwide, with blood supplies falling by nearly 25% since early August to critically low levels. Patients require blood every two seconds, making blood donations a crucial element of saving lives. January is National Blood Donor Month, and MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center wants to highlight the importance of blood donation and encourage the general public to donate their blood and help save lives.

Blood cannot be manufactured in a laboratory or created by scientists. To ensure patients stay alive and receive the blood transfusions they need, their lifeline comes from the generosity of individuals who choose to donate blood.

Over 50% of the general population is eligible to donate blood, but unfortunately, fewer than 5% of those eligible donate. Blood donations are crucial in saving lives because they are essential for patients in need of surgery, cancer treatment, and transfusions for patients suffering from blood loss from traumatic injuries.

Each donor can only contribute one unit of blood at a time, but sometimes we have patients who require as many as 100 units of blood. Long Beach Medical Center is a Level-II Trauma Center, meaning we receive many patients who experience traumatic injuries and require blood transfusions to survive. We are currently in an O positive shortage, and we need those with O positive blood more than ever. You can never predict a trauma and most often it happens so quickly you may not readily know their blood type. That is why O blood is so important. It’s considered universal and anyone can be saved with that blood type.

There are three main products in human blood we need in blood donations: red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Each has an important role in ensuring the body works functionally.

Red blood cells account for 40-45% of blood, are generated from the bone marrow at a rate of four to five billion per hour and have a life cycle of about 120 days in the body. Red blood cell donations are crucial for people who have blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease or chronic anemia, as well as trauma victims suffering from significant blood loss. Sometimes, premature infants need a transfusion to increase their red blood cell count as well. Red blood cells also expire within 42 days, which is why continual donations are important.

Platelets are the smallest blood cells and help control bleeding in the body by plugging open wounds until they heal. Platelets are mostly used to help treat patients undergoing cancer treatment, open-heart surgery, and organ transplants.

Plasma is the liquid portion of blood and is composed mostly of water, but also contains proteins, sugars, hormones and salts, helping transport water and nutrients to the body’s tissues. Plasma transfusions are typically used for patients with liver failure, severe infections and serious burns. Plasma must be used within five days before expiring.

To help patients who are in the hospital, donors can either donate “whole blood” or platelets. Whole blood donation includes red blood cells and plasma and can greatly benefit those with cancer, blood disorders and traumatic injuries.

The MemorialCare Blood Donor Center at Long Beach Medical Center is committed to supporting the community’s constant need of blood supply through blood donation programs. Our center’s professional staff are trained to ensure each person’s donation experience is the best possible. Our work is made possible through donors in the community helping keep our blood supply consistent.

Come serve your community and help us save lives today. Click here to learn more about blood donation or schedule an appointment.