GREAT FALLS — While the American Red Cross is always looking for more people to donate blood, they find themselves even more in need around the holidays.
The holiday season presents a number of additional challenges and dangers to people that could lead to increased need for blood donations.
“There’s a lot more travel during the holiday season,” said Red Cross Senior Account Manager Scott Shanahan. “With the weather too, especially around Montana, you don’t know what you’re gonna get with the snow and storms.”
Increased travel and dangerous weather conditions tends to lead to more crashes and other incidents across the state and the country, and when accidents go up, so does the number of people looking for blood donations.
Another factor to consider is the ease with which the Red Cross can travel to blood donation events across the state.
The Red Cross of Great Falls covers a wide area of Montana, including cities to the far East and West of the state and the Hi-Line.
In the winter, schools aren’t in session and employees tend to take more days off for the holidays. This can lead to sparsely attended events and lower blood totals.
“Twenty-percent of our draws are at high schools and colleges, so when they’re not in session you don’t get those donors either,” said Shanahan. “That’s why we always have an urgent need too around the holidays and in the summer.”
He added that many people may be understandably hesitant to donate blood for the first time, but if they do decide to donate, it’s worth it.
“I think if someone donates for the first time, and they’re able to do it, it’s really easy after that and you’ll probably come back,” he said. “It makes a big difference in someone's life. I’ve met many recipients over the years and they’re very grateful for blood donations.”
You can donate blood up to six times per year, but the average donor does so about twice every year.
There are multiple types of blood donations. Whole blood donations have a shelf life of about 42 days, while platelet donations only last for five days. The average donation session lasts about 90 minutes.