Donating blood is a mitzvah
'Lo ta’amod al dam re’echa' — 'do not stand by while your neighbor bleeds' — Leviticus 19:16
October 27, 2018, will forever resonate in our souls as one of the most tragic assaults against the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, as well as in the United States.
This terrible event made us change the way we do things, and the way we think. It has made us aware of the need to express love more often within our families and community, to be prepared and to increase security. After so many vigils, so many tears and so many prayers, we are proving that we are indeed stronger than hate because we’re focused on strengthening the future.
One of the ways we can strengthen the future is by donating blood.
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On the day of the massacre, people all over Pittsburgh lined up outside Vitalant (formerly Central Blood Bank) donation centers to donate blood on behalf of the injured. This act of generosity gave them purpose in the face of helplessness. But what many did not realize is that the blood already at the hospitals helped those injured at the Tree of Life building. This is because it takes about 48 hours to test, prepare and ship blood to hospitals.
Of course, those who donated that day still played a valuable role in saving lives, because there is a continuous, ongoing need for blood and blood products. For this reason, it’s crucial that our community blood supply is constantly replenished, so blood is available whenever patients need it.
But this isn’t happening.
The number of people donating blood in our community has declined by more than 50 percent over the past 10 years. In 2017, donors gave only 47 percent of the blood needed by area hospitals, forcing Vitalant to import the other 53 percent from blood centers outside of our community.
This alarming decline could lead to a community health crisis.
If the unthinkable happens and another disaster occurs, blood must be available at the hospital for victims to survive. But equally important are personal disasters that occur every day, like cancer diagnoses, severe injuries and catastrophic accidents, and babies born prematurely who can’t survive without immediate blood transfusions. If blood is not available, hospitals may need to postpone or even cancel elective surgeries and other treatments.
The only way to reverse this downward spiral is to shift the mindset of those in our community who are not blood donors, or who have gotten out of the habit of donating. Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, but less than 10 percent actually do.
The No. 1 reason people do not donate blood is because they haven’t been asked. Please consider yourself asked.
You have an opportunity to make a difference:
• If you are able to donate blood,
please do so.
• Host a blood donation program with regular blood drives scheduled several times a year. Blood donation programs can take place at your workplace, a civic organization, synagogue or any other organization to which you belong. Vitalant offers a bloodmobile if you do not have the appropriate space. Call 412-209-7000 for more information.
• Encourage your friends and family to visit a nearby blood donation center if you cannot host a blood donation program.
• Spread the word about the need for lifelong blood donors via your personal social media.
In closing, consider this statistic: Every day, 600 people in the greater Pittsburgh area must donate blood to ensure that hospital patients have the blood they need to survive.
These patients are counting on you. pjc
Charles Wilcox is the division president of Vitalant (formerly Central Blood Blank). To make an appointment to donate blood, go to vitalant.org.