Entries in Blood Donations (9)


Blood Drive Protests FDA Ban on Gay Donors

Gillian Mohney/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- After Marshall Duer-Balkind, 30, exited a blood donation center on Friday morning, he held up a long green form as evidence that he had been rejected as a blood donor.

On the form Duer-Balkind pointed out that section that disqualified him from being a blood donor because of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy that bans men who have sex with men from giving blood.

After Duer-Balkind showed the form to two volunteers from the National Gay Blood Drive demonstration, the volunteers pulled out a red ink pad and stamped "Rejected" on his forearm.

The stamp was proof that Duer-Balkind had taken part in a nationwide demonstration to protest the FDA policy, which pervents men who engage in homosexual sex from donating blood, since they are considered at a higher risk for having HIV.

"I think it's an absolutely ridiculous and antiquated policy," said Duer-Balkind, who had come to participate in the demonstration during a vacation in New York.

There were more than 50 demonstrations planned as part of the National Gay Blood Drive in various U.S. cities on Friday. The drive was planned to help draw attention to the number of potential blood donors who are automatically disqualified due to their sexual orientation. In addition to men who have sex with men, women are disqualified from giving blood if within the last 12 months they have had sex with a man who at any point since 1977 has had sex with another man.

At designated blood donation centers across the country, participants in the National Gay Blood Drive were tested for HIV and if they tested negative, attempted to donate blood at a blood donation center. When they were rejected due to FDA regulations, they received a stamp and turned in their HIV testing results to be sent to the FDA.

The FDA's decades-long ban stared during the AIDS crisis and restricts any man, who has had sex with another man since 1977, from donating blood.

In recent years as HIV testing has improved, the policy has come under fire for being discriminatory and outdated. In June the American Medical Association voted to oppose the ban.

The National Gay Blood Drive was organized by independent filmmaker Ryan James Yezak, 26, who was inspired to act after he was forced to explain to co-workers he could not donate blood because he was gay.

"There's a really alienating feeling," said Yezak, who is working on a documentary about discrimination based on sexual orientation. "That's the first time I felt direct anti-gay discrimination and once you feel that you can't ignore it."

Yezak said that 1,400 people have said they would attend different demonstrations. At one New York City location, there had been over 20 participants by noon.

The demonstration comes just days after the American Red Cross issued an emergency request for blood and platelet donations since June donations were down 10 percent.

Yezak said the he hopes the FDA will craft a new blood donor policy that is based on behavior associated with high HIV risk rather than just sexual orientation. He also said one step could be adopting a policy similar to other countries, such as Canada or the United Kingdom, where men who have sex with men can donate blood if they abstain from sex for a certain period of time.

In 2010 an FDA Advisory Committee on Blood Safety found that the current ban on gay men as blood donors was "suboptimal" but voted to keep the policy pending further research. The U.S. Health and Human Services is performing additional studies to see what policy revisions should be undertaken.

According to the FDA, men who have sex with men made up 61 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S. in 2010. Although HIV testing is performed on all donated blood, there are rare cases where HIV is not detected because the infection is too new. According to the FDA there is an HIV risk in 1 out of every 2 million units of donated blood.

In response to a request for comment from the FDA regarding the National Gay Blood Drive, an FDA spokesperson wrote that the "FDA's primary responsibility with regard to blood and blood products is to assure the safety of patients who receive these life-saving products … We applaud the critical contributions made by blood donors and we are sensitive to the concerns of potential donors and other individuals affected by current blood safety policies."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


More Pets Donating Blood

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pet owners are opting for more surgery to keep their pets alive and as a result demand is rising for dog and cat blood donors.

The University of Wisconsin Veterinary Teaching Hospital has a list of nearly 2-dozen dogs and cats who give blood on a regular basis to help meet the need.

Vets say that a pet’s temperament is critical to their ability to be a blood donor, as they have to sit through the drawing. Dogs have to lie on their side for five minutes during the process.

As with human blood donations, there are some other criteria. Dogs have to be at least a year old and weigh a minimum of 55 pounds. The donating pets cannot be on any medication, but must be up to date on their vaccinations and flea and tick protection.

And, just like people, these pets deserve a cookie after donating.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boxer Helps Other Dogs as Blood Donor

KTUL/ABC News(TULSA, Okla.) -- As a regular donor, Winston makes sure to give blood every few months.  His pints save the lives of many others in need -- that is, those of the canine variety.

“Dogs and cats need blood, just like [humans] do in emergency situations,” Dr. Rebekah Heinz told ABC News affiliate KTUL-TV.

Winston, a friendly boxer who lives in Oklahoma, takes a needle to the jugular to give to other canines.  That’s because like humans with an O negative blood type, “boxers are the universal blood donors for dogs,” Winston’s owner told KTUL.

His donations recently helped a Yorkie named Barkley, who lost a good amount of blood when he had to have his spleen removed.

It wasn’t too long ago that Winston needed help himself.  Before coming to live with his current owners, Winston was abused.

But now, Winston is paying it forward.  Whenever donations are needed, he is on-call at the Woodland West Animal Hospital in Tulsa, Okla.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Donated Blood Supply Drops to Dangerous Levels

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The American Red Cross today reported dangerously low levels of blood and platelet supplies, with 50,000 fewer blood donations than expected for the month of June. The Red Cross calls upon all those who are eligible to give blood to visit Red Cross or other collection centers to donate.

"Donations are down more than 10 percent across the country," Stephanie Millian, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, told ABC News. "We have almost half the amount of available blood on the shelves compared to last year."

Blood donations usually drop in the summer months, and the early heat wave, along with summer vacations, likely contributed to the severely limited supply.

The Red Cross hasn’t made a push for more donated blood since last summer when supply was also low.

All types of blood are welcome, but O negative is particularly needed. It is the universal donor blood type, and the type doctors turn to during  emergencies, because it can be transfused to anyone in need. Blood types O positive, B negative and A negative are in particularly high demand, too, said the Red Cross.

"We need 38,000 units of blood every day to meet the needs of patients across the country," said Millian.

She said blood is needed across the country, but recent severe weather and flooding in the southern part of the country has put it even more in need.

To find blood donation centers in your area, call 800-RedCross or visit

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CDC: Tick-Borne Babesiosis a Major Blood Transfusion Threat

Keith Brofsky/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While bites from deer ticks are usually to blame for cases of babesiosis -- a potentially fatal parasitic illness that mimics malaria -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified at least 159 cases of the disease transmitted through blood transfusions.

In new research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers identified transmission-associated cases of babesiosis between 1979 and 2009.  More than 75 percent of the cases occurred during 2000 and 2009, and while 87 percent of cases were found in the seven states where babesiosis is most common, there were also cases in 15 other states.

“The risk for transfusion-associated Babesia [the parasite that causes the disease] infection may be increasing,” the authors wrote.  “Cases have occurred year-round and have been seen in states where Babesia species are not endemic.”

While most people infected with babesiosis have no symptoms, others may experience fatigue, anemia, jaundice and other symptoms.  It can sometimes be fatal, especially in the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Babesiosis is the most common disease transmitted through blood transfusions.

A history of babesiosis will exclude someone from donating blood, but signs of infection may not show up right away so a person may not know he or she is ill.  So far, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any screening test for the presence of Babesia.

The researchers believe the transfusion-associated cases uncovered during their research are only a fraction of the number that may actually have occurred.

“The extent to which cases were not detected, investigated, or reported (to the CDC, to other public health authorities, or in publications) is unknown,” the authors wrote.  “Donor-screening strategies that mitigate the risk for transfusion transmission are needed.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Irene Leaves Blood in Short Supply

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the threat of Hurricane Irene shut down business along the U.S. East Coast, it forced the cancellation of more than 60 scheduled blood drives, resulting in a shortfall of more than 2,100 units of blood, according to the American Red Cross.

The storm has not boosted the demand for blood products, but more than 44,000 donations are needed daily across the United States to help accident victims, cancer patients, and people with blood disorders.

"When a disaster like Hurricane Irene strikes, it doesn't diminish the need, even though some donors may find it more difficult to donate," said Stephanie Millian, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross. "That's why we're asking people in unaffected areas to step up."

Despite widespread structural damage and power outages along Irene's multistate path, blood collected and stored before the storm is safe. But the supply of universal donor blood, which is usually stocked at the three-to-five-day inventory level, has dropped below the two-day minimum level.

"O-negative blood is at the lowest level today," said Rob Purvis, vice president of New York Blood Center. "But at this point we need everybody who can donate to donate regardless of what their blood type is."

Six blood collection centers in the Northeast that provide nearly half of the region's blood supply have only enough blood to last two days, according to the America's Blood Centers website. One center has only enough blood for one day.

The blood donation lull is likely to continue as companies struggling to return to normal cancel their scheduled drives, Purvis said.

"The Department of Sanitation had to cancel their drives because of the extra work they had to do," said Purvis. "People are busy doing their jobs. And in terms of priorities, blood donation is really low on the list."

The impending holiday and back to school season will also slow the flow of donated blood, Purvis said.

"We need the help of our communities to replenish the blood supply."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Red Cross Makes Appeal for Blood Donations

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/American Red Cross(WASHINGTON) -- The need for blood in the United States is urgent. The Red Cross says January donations were at their lowest level in a decade.  A big reason for the shortage is the bad weather on the East Coast and Midwest. Since January, severe weather has cancelled about 750  blood drives.

The Red Cross says it's short more than 30,000 units and climbing. Amy Moody heard about the need and responded saying, "It makes me feel like I'm doing something. I mean what else can i do to save a life? I can't think of anything else i can do except give blood."

The effort to make up for blood lost due to bad weather even has a name: "Recovery 2011."

The Red Cross says only three in every 100 people are regular blood donors. In general, most Americans don't give enough blood to even cover their own need for blood. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boy with Rare Disease Inspires Donations of Band-Aids, Blood

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- These days, SpongeBob SquarePants, Transformers, pirates and Disney-character Band-Aids are all a part of the selection for Liam Gorman, who receives blood transfusions every third Friday of the month.  But for Liam, who's six, there's nothing like a bacon Band-Aid strip to wrap up an all-day visit to Brooklyn Hospital Center.

Liam must get transfusions every two-to-three weeks because of a rare condition known as Diamond Blackfan Anemia, in which one's bone marrow is unable to produce red blood cells.

After a difficult birth, doctors found that baby Liam had a low platelet count.  He spent his first 32 days of life in the neo-natal intensive care unit, but it wasn't until he was 15 months old that Liam was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan Anemia.  Only about 600 people in the entire world have been diagnosed with it.

Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, so, when Liam's levels are low, he can become pale and fatigued.

Doctors have not kept Liam from playing sports or doing the things that most kids do, but he must be monitored carefully.  Those with Diamond Blackfan Anemia can live full lives if treated and cared for properly.

And his treatments are not for the faint of heart.  Once a month, Liam takes off from school to get his transfusion.  While the kids like to spice up their treatments with fun or funky Band-Aids, Liam and the other children in the pediatrics department didn't always have such colorful options.  After the hospital went through a series of budget cuts, the kids were stuck with boring brown Band-Aids.

So Liam had an idea.  He said to his father, Anthony Gorman, a paramedic, last April, "Let's go ask people for Band-Aids."  The colorful kind, that is.

Gorman began asking his paramedic friends to donate a box of Band-Aids for the kids at Brooklyn Hospital Center.  The word spread, and in a matter of three weeks, Gorman had collected 500 boxes of children's Band-Aids.

It may sound trivial, but for those kids receiving blood transfusions or chemotherapy treatments, the choice of Band-Aid can go a long way, Gorman said.

Gorman said that Brooklyn Hospital should be all set with colorful Band-Aids for a while.  But Liam and his father plan to continue their campaign.  Along with the Band-Aids, Gorman also holds blood drives in honor of Liam every six-to-nine months. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Red Cross Makes Urgent Plea for Blood Donors

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- This winter has brought especially brutal weather across the country, and according to the American Red Cross, the nationwide blood supply is at its lowest January levels in the last 10 years.  The agency is trying to get the word out that blood is urgently needed.

"When severe weather disrupts [the balance between supply and demand], the Red Cross puts out a call to potential blood donors across the country to give blood as soon as possible and help make up the deficit," Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, said in a press release.

The Red Cross says someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds in the U.S. because of injuries, surgery and treatments for diseases like cancer and sickle cell anemia.  The organization says it needs all blood types, especially type O, and encourages everyone at least 17 years old in overall good health to see if they are eligible to donate.

Blood and blood components, like platelets, are extremely perishable and need to be replenished constantly.

"Platelets have a shelf life of only five days, and regular blood has a shelf life of six weeks," said Dr. Michael Sacher, director of the Hoxworth Blood Center at the University of Cincinnati.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio