Treatment of COVID-19 has created an increased demand for blood and blood products in the U.S.

“At times, blood and platelets are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, which impacts the ability to rebuild the blood supply,” stated the American Red Cross in a July plea for blood donation.

Donors of all blood types are needed right now, with a critical need for type O blood and COVID plasma donations, states the Vitalant website.

“Many blood drives have been canceled, so your individual donations matter now more than ever. We are now testing all donors for COVID-19 antibodies. Whether you’re eligible to give whole blood; recovered from COVID-19 and can donate convalescent plasma; or can host a blood drive, you are saving lives,” states Vitalant.org.

Unique to our pandemic situation, plasma donations, which take the liquid part of the blood, are also needed — specifically by those who have had COVID — to treat current COVID patients.

“Fully recovered from COVID-19 — and at least 28 days symptom free? If you had a positive COVID test OR have a confirmed positive COVID-19 supplemental antibody test, your plasma may be able to help COVID patients,” states vitalant.org.

The site also states, “Vitalant continues to test every donation for COVID-19 antibodies and informs donors of their results. If positive, Vitalant produces COVID plasma, also known as convalescent plasma, from the donation. These donors can then give a convalescent plasma donation in the future to help give COVID-19 patients an extra boost of antibodies to fight their illness.”

Anyone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine cannot give convalescent plasma; “however, they may donate blood or platelets if they meet all general blood donation eligibility criteria,” states the website.

Any blood donated at Vitalant is tested for COVID antibodies. If the antibodies are present in your blood, they’ll call you to come back and donate plasma. A blood donation is rather quick — it takes about 10 minutes from the needle stick. You can donate blood about every two months.

A plasma donation takes a total of about two hours. The red cells and platelets are returned to your body as the plasma is harvested. Plasma donation takes 30-45 minutes, and the entire appointment takes 90 minutes to two hours.

Other donation types include platelets (helps cancer patients and organ transplant recipients, among others) and power red (double the red cells), which can help pediatric and anemic patients, among others. Donation time is two hours for platelets and 30-45 minutes for power red.

Learn more about types of donations at vitalant.org/types-of-donation.

In every case, the donor is helping someone, or several people, down the line.

Earlier this month I donated blood at a Colorado Springs Vitalant center. It seems to me a very easy way to give back. I’m already a registered organ donor, the need for which I’ve written about in this column before. But giving blood is something you can do right now, today, to help people.

The donation took a lot less time than I anticipated. I never even cracked the book I brought with me. Afterward I was encouraged to stay and rest as long as I needed to and to help myself to a wide variety of snacks and soft drinks. It was easy and painless.

The overall appointment for me (which I scheduled ahead of time for early on a Sunday morning), including filling out a questionnaire, getting my vitals and blood checked, having the blood taken, and resting and having a snack afterward, took just under an hour. I felt quite well after, and treated myself to a restaurant breakfast.

“Vitalant encourages existing and new donors to schedule a blood donation appointment in February — Heart Health Month — to do good for others and get their own health check. One of the benefits of blood donation is the mini-physical every donor receives, including a check of pulse and blood pressure as well as a cholesterol test,” states the Vitalant site.

To schedule a donation or learn more about the process, visit donors.vitalant.org/dwp/portal/dwa.

Michelle Karas is editor of this publication and the three other Pikes Peak Newspapers weeklies. Contact Michelle at michelle.karas@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

Michelle has been editor of Pikes Peak Newspapers (Pikes Peak Courier and Tri-Lakes Tribune) since June 2019. A Pennsylvania native and Penn State journalism graduate, she joined The Gazette's staff in 2015.