You can save a life during the year's deadliest 100 days. Donate blood.


In this article:

  • A robust blood supply is vital for many patients with chronic conditions or diseases and for emergency care.
  • We are entering the "Deadliest 100 Days" between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays, when blood supplies run low with increased demand. 
  • One blood donation can produce several different blood products with unique uses and patient benefits. Your donation can help save more than one life. 
  • There are the real-life consequences for many patients when blood supplies run low. 

Saving lives isn’t just for superheroes. You don’t have to leap tall buildings, have X-ray vision or even a cape. Sometimes, it's as simple as donating blood. It’s one of the most effective – and easiest – things you can do to help save lives. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), every two seconds there is someone who in the United States who needs a blood transfusion.

As we move into the "Deadliest 100 Days" between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays, when local trauma centers see an increased need for blood and platelets, Bloodworks Northwest is issuing an urgent call for donations. The organization provides blood supply to 95% of hospitals in the Pacific Northwest, including Providence Swedish. Earlier this year, for National Blood Donor Month, we spoke with Robert Weinsheimer, M.D., director of Swedish Pediatric Surgical Services, about how donated blood is used and what a shortage could mean for people needing care.

“It’s important to have a sufficient and well-stocked reserve of blood because you never know when emergencies will come up. And it is literally one of the life-saving tools that we have to help treat patients.”

Who needs donated blood?

“A wide range of patients uses donated blood,” says Dr. Weinsheimer. “There are the classic emergencies from traumas, like motor vehicle collisions. There is also what we call penetrating trauma which includes things like gunshot wounds and stabbings. Those kinds of traumatic injury-related needs for blood are a big component of where the blood goes.”

“But there are all sorts of other areas of medicine that rely on donated blood. There are folks with bleeding disorders like hemophilia or sickle cell disease who have a tendency to bleed. For organ transplantation, it is very, very common for a lot of blood products to be needed. Other blood vessel-related surgeries, called vascular surgery, and other types of surgery often require donated blood. Cancer patients receive therapies that intentionally knock down their ability to make their own supply of the various components of blood. Chemotherapy often compromises a patient’s ability to make all those different cells and components of blood. They often need to have those things replaced,” he adds.

“If children are in car accidents, they certainly can need blood for that reason. In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the intensive care unit for little babies, most of whom are premature, their ability to make the various parts of blood can be quite compromised. Because they are so small, any blood loss can be quite significant. Premature babies often cannot form blood clots very well, so they have a high risk of bleeding-related issues. Using platelets and plasma components, which have different clotting factors, is really important for our patients,” explains Dr. Weinsheimer.

“More recently, there have been donations of different components of blood that have immune fighting factors to help fight certain sorts of infections. There is a huge range of things that in 2023, we’re able to treat because we have blood available,” he says.

A purpose for every drop

Blood products have a wide variety of uses beyond whole blood transfusions, according to Dr. Weinsheimer.

“We think of donating blood and then we think of that whole blood going to one patient. In reality, we donate blood that is processed in a way that can benefit several different patients. And the various components of blood are used to help in different situations,” he explains.

Several different types of blood products can be donated. Each has unique applications. The most common are:

  • Whole blood is the blood in your veins. It may be used to replace blood lost during surgery or after a trauma.
  • Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout your body. When separated from whole blood, they can help treat anemia.
  • Platelets affect your blood’s ability to clot. They are often given to people undergoing organ transplant surgery or cancer patients.
  • Plasma is the fluid in your blood. It’s used in numerous treatments for a variety of diseases and conditions.

A robust blood supply is vital

“Having available supplies of blood is essential to the care of all types of patients. In my work as a pediatric surgeon, we work with premature infants in critical condition. The ability to administer immediate and safe blood products is a key component to the comprehensive treatments needed to support these fragile babies through difficult times,” says Dr. Weinsheimer. “I’m sure other physicians would say the same about their patients’ need for donated blood.”

“Limited blood supply directly impacts the care we are able to provide. With a healthy supply, we can offer emergent care for trauma, transplantation, cancer care and intensive care for all ages of patients. With limits in supply, we are forced to limit the scope of care we can provide. This would mean decreasing the volume and diversity of care we can provide, saving the available blood for the most critical of patients and possibly delaying the urgent care we provide,” he adds.

“It’s important to have a sufficient and well-stocked reserve of blood because you never know when emergencies will come up,” he explains. “And it is literally one of the life-saving tools that we have to help treat patients.”

Learn more and find a physician or advanced care practitioner (ACP)

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Contact Swedish Primary Care to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider. You can also connect virtually with your provider to review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. And with Swedish ExpressCare Virtual you can receive treatment in minutes for common conditions such as colds, flu, urinary tract infections, and more. You can use our provider directory to find a specialist or primary care physician near you. 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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