SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 and the American Red Cross are partnering to urge Bay Area residents to donate blood in January for National Blood Donor Month.
"The need for blood is constant," said Justin Mueller, regional executive of donor services for the American Red Cross Northern California coastal region. "That's the same that we always had pre-COVID. It holds very true today."
According to Mueller, about 25 percent of Red Cross blood drives were at colleges and high schools prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Distance learning ended that opportunity.
"A lot of the schools have the very diverse donor base and others just aren't donating," Mueller continued. "That's so important because when you look at sickle cell disease, the reality is sickle cell disease really impacts folks in the Black and the Latin X community."
Sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder. Patients are at high risk of serious complications from coronavirus infection.
"When we don't have donors that are coming out, that are from those communities, then we're not able to get those type-specific products to the patients that have the needs," Mueller replied.
Understandably, some are weary of giving blood during the pandemic, but Mueller said blood drives look much different these days. Temperature checks, face masks, social distancing, and a pre-screening are all required. In the name of safety, walk-ins are prohibited.
VIDEO: Here's why blood donations are important for sickle cell patients
"We'll need folks to make those appointments in the upcoming days, upcoming weeks and upcoming months," Mueller said. "The need is not going away."
All blood products are tested for COVID-19 antibodies in hopes that the plasma can be used for coronavirus treatment.
If you need another inspiring reason to give, just learn from someone like Melissa Mayorgas. Her 13-year-old son Parker was diagnosed with early heart failure in the spring of 2019. Things were stable, but at the beginning of the pandemic, Parker's heart started to give out.
"He was having some very dangerous arrhythmias," Mayorgas said. "His heart was failing rapidly."
Over the course of 95 days at the hospital, Mayorgas said Parker received 33 units of blood.
"The body doesn't even hold 33 units of blood," she continued. "So yes, it was a life-saving measure."
Parker finally got a new heart last Halloween. The hospital allowed Parker to hold is old heart. It was scarred and enlarged. The journey to a transplant was a physical and emotional one for the Mayorgas family. They are blood donors and hope you will consider being one too.
"You can absolutely change the life of somebody else," Mayorgas said. "The timing of this could not be better because we're in a crisis in America right now. There's so many people who can't go to work, who can't put food on the table for their family, so asking people to donate right now is very difficult, but this is one thing everybody can do and it doesn't cost you a dime."
You can give when and where it's convenient for you.
Schedule an appointment here.
Learn more about the ABC7 and Red Cross partnership here.
VIDEO: Here's how the Red Cross blood drive is different this year