When you donate blood, you can be assured that you are giving someone, somewhere a great gift. According to the American Red Cross, someone in the US needs blood every two seconds. This includes newborn babies and mothers in need of transfusions. Blood is commonly given to premature babies to help fight infection, treat anemia, and replace blood lost through procedures and repeated draws for testing. Because a preemie has so little blood to start with, and a reduced capacity to produce oxygen-carrying red blood cells, blood transfusion is a lifesaving treatment.

When Jacqui’s Preemie Pride owner, Sue Regan, gave birth to her daughter Jacqui, she suffered severe hemorrhaging and also needed blood transfusions. “It saved both of our lives, definitely,” Sue says. “And I always felt much better after a transfusion.” Sue and Jacqui, like so many others, were able to receive this critical treatment because a stranger chose to donate blood.

Newborn and premature babies, and others with weakened immune systems, do need a specific type of blood. Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a common virus that most American adults have been exposed to. While harmless to the person carrying antibodies to CMV, CMV positive blood cannot be given to patients with underdeveloped or compromised immune systems. That is why donors with CMV negative blood are identified as specialty donors, and their donations are made available for newborns and premature babies. When anyone donates blood, it is tested for CMV. If you are a CMV negative donor, you will be notified and you can be a “baby donor”. Even if your blood is CMV positive, your donation is critically important to mothers like Sue, and many, many others in need of blood transfusion. 

So if you’ve never donated, we encourage you to find a blood drive or donation center near you. Hospitals often take donations and sponsor blood drives as well. Making an appointment and filling out questionnaires online saves time. I donated at an American Red Cross blood drive this week and was in and out within 50 minutes. No matter your blood type, you’ll be making a big difference in someone’s life. And you might find out that you can be a baby donor! If you have donated before, but haven’t in a while, now is a great time to go again. Donations drop in the summer, as people go on vacation and drives at schools and universities slow down.

For more information on giving blood, or to find a drive near you, check out the American Red Cross website or AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks). You can also contact your local hospital to find out if you can donate to a hospital-affiliated collection center or drive. Thanks to everyone who donates!

Sources:

American Red Cross. (n.d.). CMV Baby Brigade Blood Drives. Retrieved from http://www.redcrossblood.org/promotions/gcp/cmv-baby-brigade-blood-drives

American Red Cross. (2017). Emergency Need for Blood Donations as Red Cross Experiences Critical Blood Shortage. [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://www.redcross.org/news/press-release/Emergency-need-for-blood-donations-as-Red-Cross-experiences-critical-blood-shortage

Cincinnati Children’s. (n.d.) Risks and Benefits of Blood Product Transfusions in Neonates Retrieved from https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/b/blood-transfusions-neonatesSaveSaveSaveSave