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The power of blood donation

By The Health News Team | February 28, 2024
Blood donation illustration with hands and a heart

San Diegans are known for their community engagement — a point of pride for those living in “America’s Finest City.” One of the easiest and most important things locals can do for the community is donate blood. And according to the area blood bank, San Diego needs over 350 units a day to keep up with demand.

When you donate blood, you’re helping a variety or populations, including people

  • Living with life-threatening blood disorders

  • Living with cancer and other chronic diseases

  • Experiencing trauma from burns or accidents

  • Experiencing childbirth complications

  • Receiving an organ donation

“By simply rolling up your sleeves and giving the gift of life through blood donation, you have the power to bring healing, hope and humanity to those in need,” says Dr. Suzanne Afflalo, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Community Medical Group. “Your contribution can transform despair into hope for countless individuals — one donation at a time.”

America’s first blood bank: Black excellence in action

Blood banks were not the norm prior to the 1940s, when Dr. Charles Richard Drew, celebrated as the “father of the blood bank,” saw the significant need for a donated blood repository. Though regularly facing racism, Dr. Drew attended Amherst College and McGill University’s medical school, where he focused his dissertation on blood transfusions and effective methods for the storage of blood. He was later the first Black American to earn a medical degree from Columbia University.

As World War II escalated in 1940, blood was desperately needed to treat the injuries of Allied troops and civilians. Great Britain reached out to him in New York for his help, and in response, Dr. Drew created a system to recruit blood donors, separate the plasma, store and test the plasma and arrange for shipment of the plasma overseas, using the American Red Cross to fulfill the mission.

Dr. Drew was estimated to have helped the organization successfully collect over 14,500 donations, saving thousands of lives through his efforts. Shortly after, Dr. Drew became the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank. However, his greatest legacy may be his role as an educator of — and inspiration to — Black medical students and doctors around the world.

How you can make a difference

Though the country is no longer at war, the Red Cross reports someone in the U.S. still needs blood every 2 seconds. And just one pint of donated blood can save up to three lives.

The process to donate blood in San Diego is quick and easy — and can help save a life. When you go to the San Diego Blood Bank to donate, a staff member will walk you through a series of questions to make sure you’re eligible; take your blood pressure, temperature and pulse; and take a blood sample to ensure your blood count is acceptable.

In San Diego, you can schedule an appointment to donate blood via the San Diego Blood Bank website or by calling 619-400-8251. Walk-ins and visits to mobile blood drives near you are also welcome.

Additionally, A Healthier Me, Dr. Afflalo’s organization focused on improving the overall health of underserved communities in San Diego, hosts regular blood drives and health fairs. Visit the A Healthier Me website to learn more.

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