~by Celine Rogers
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. So when CES Lexington saw an opportunity to host their first blood drive, they took it. On September 20, 2020, they opened up their parking lot to the American Red Cross.
“City Electric Supply is the type of group carrying us through this time,” said American Red Cross Donor Recruitment Account Representative Millicent Lambert. “We couldn’t do what we do without partnerships. We’re so grateful.”
By “this time,” Lambert meant in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, which has already caused over 30,000 blood drive cancellations.
“People don’t realize that. It’s a very large number. Ultimately, blood drive cancellations result in fewer blood donations collected for patients who rely on lifesaving transfusions,” explained American Red Cross Spokesperson Maya Franklin. “Blood donors and blood drive hosts play a critical role in maintaining a sufficient blood supply to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus outbreak.”
The pandemic has affected the world in so many ways that most people have not even thought about the toll it’s taken on the American Red Cross and what that means for the future of the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General has already spoken about potential blood shortages in the future and the importance of getting out to donate. On top of that, donations often decline this time of year as people’s calendars fill with holiday activities.
“Winter weather and seasonal illnesses also affect donations. These factors will likely be compounded by the ongoing pandemic. Medical conditions and emergencies that require blood don’t stop for the holidays or a pandemic,” said Franklin.
Two people who have already stepped up to help? CES Lexington Branch Manager Ben Davis and Operations Manager Zach Cooper. “We are both long-time donors and thought it would be a really good idea to host a blood drive,” explained Cooper. “Zach and I have donated blood locally for the last 10 years,” said Davis. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we host one ourselves? Let’s see what it takes to do one.’”
When they looked into it, they were pleasantly surprised by what they found. “The American Red Cross takes care of everything,” said Davis. “It’s the easiest thing a branch could do.”
They provided a spot in the parking lot, and the American Red Cross brought a bus, set up a tent, and provided staff. “All we did was advertise and hand out gift bags,” said Davis. “The gift bags were our idea. We wanted to do more, so Zach and I decided it would be nice to put a little something together for every person who donates. We want people to know we’re here for them and the community.”
And as much as they were there for the community, the community was there for them. CES Lexington’s blood drive collected 15 pints of blood that day — in a mere four hours. “They were tickled about having 15 good pints of blood in only four hours!” said Davis. “Every donation can help up to three people, so collecting 15 pints can help 45 patients. That’s a big deal,” said Lambert. “Every blood drive matters and every pint matters.”
To back up that statement, here are some numbers. One donation can save up to three lives. Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S. What are blood donations used for? Everything from chronic illnesses and traumatic injuries to essential surgeries and cancer treatments. Many cancer patients require blood daily with chemotherapy, and some car accident victims can require as many as 100 units of blood.
There are plenty of examples of blood donations saving lives, and it’s important to realize that every time a patient receives lifesaving blood, it was given in advance by a donor. The American Red Cross website said it best — there’s just no substitute for blood. The need is real and constant.
And there are things people can do about it. One, you can donate blood. It’s always important to donate blood, but it’s especially important with the coronavirus pandemic and potential blood shortages on the horizon. When you donate blood, the American Red Cross will test it for COVID-19 antibodies. And if you need motivation to donate, Davis has just that.
“Donating is just a good thing to do, and it gives you a great feeling being able to help,” said Davis.
On top of the good feeling, it doesn’t take a lot of time. In fact, you can treat it like any other scheduled habit. “You can donate every 56 days, so I put it on my calendar like a dentist appointment or haircut,” said Lambert.
Two, you can help increase the number of first-time donors by spreading the word about the American Red Cross, the importance of donating, and the steps you can take to become a first-time donor (hint: all of these resources are readily available on the American Red Cross website).
Spreading awareness is an important way to boost the number of first-time donors, which can boost the number of lifetime donors. Currently, only 3 out of every 100 people in the country donate blood. Generations that grew up in times of war grew accustomed to donating blood in a way many younger generations haven’t. “Across the board, we’d like to see an increase in first-time donors,” said Lambert. “We’re excited to see young people take the lead and become the next generation of blood donors.”
Three, you can volunteer or donate financially to support the American Red Cross. Everything you need to get started is on their website, redcrossblood.org.
And four, you can host a blood drive like Davis and Cooper. “We truly appreciate all the hard work by Ben and the generous donations made by the City Electric Supply employees and others who came out to give. Every unit truly makes a difference,” said American Red Cross Account Manager III Chris Newman. “I was so excited to see the participation we had for our very first blood drive,” said Davis. “I want to make it a yearly thing.”
As Lambert, Franklin, and Newman have said, every unit counts. We are so proud of CES Lexington and their avid dedication to supporting the American Red Cross through these difficult times. We hope their blood drives can continue to improve and save lives as well as inspire more people to take up the cause.