By Sheryl Feminis
Want to do something really special this Valentine’s Day? Make a date with your significant other to donate blood together through the American Red Cross.
February is American Heart Month, when the American Heart Association (AHA) does even more than usual to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease and how to prevent it. The timing is a natural, given all the heart shapes already out there to promote Cupid’s red-letter day. The AHA may as well piggyback the sentimental marketing campaigns with reminders of how important it is to care for real hearts — the ones that don’t get candy boxes and pillows modeled after them.
In Short Supply
I’m proposing, for everyone who’s eligible, that we celebrate American Heart Month by continuing the progress made in January, when the Red Cross coordinated National Blood Donor Month. Blood and heart health are a forever coupling, after all.
In case you missed it, the Red Cross issued urgent calls last month for blood and platelet donations. This year, largely because of severe weather conditions and natural disasters all over the country, blood and platelets are in short supply. Blood drives cancelled in November and December last year meant that blood and platelet collection fell short by 28,000 collections.
That means patients are in danger of not getting the life-saving blood they need. Think of those fighting cancer, leukemia and sickle cell disease, as well as accident and burn victims and heart surgery and organ transplant patients. Victims of the next natural disaster are in jeopardy as well. Insurance restores their possessions. Blood allows them to live.
This is one of those “just do it” moments. For those eligible, blood is a commodity we all have and can afford to share. It costs nothing but time and compassion — though the Red Cross is happy to also accept your money, if you care to donate in that capacity.
But banking lifeblood is the goal. As for platelets, they have a short shelf life, so they have to be collected constantly.
How to Donate
The Red Cross makes it easy and painless to donate. I urge you contact your local chapter for information. Make it part of your Valentine’s date. You might even send one of these cute pins from the Red Cross website. You can still do the hearts-and-flowers thing. Or jewelry, candy, sports tickets — whatever warms the actual beating heart of your true love.
This Valentine’s Day, though, spread the love by giving blood. The Red Cross provides 40% of the nation’s blood supply. When you’re a blood donor, you never know who among the crowd on the street, in the subway or at the ballgame has new life because you sat still for a few minutes to give something you probably can easily afford to share. A bonus: It will make your heart happy, as well.