It’s a gift that doesn’t come wrapped in paper and tied in a bow, and it doesn’t cost anything to give.
The holiday season may be a time for giving, but when it comes to donating blood, a lot of people don’t do it.
NBC Bay Area’s Cheryl Hurd takes a look at why blood bank supplies are low this time of year and shows us why giving blood is important all year round.
“If you don’t have enough blood, it’s not good at all,” says 14-year-old Tyra Watkins. “You can pass out. That’s what happened to me.”
At 14, that’s what Tyra remembers about being sick, but her father’s memory is a little better than hers.
“Tyra’s had a need for blood, one year about four times, so we knew prior to birth that Tyra was SS,” Frank Watkins said.
“SS” means that Tyra has a serious form of the blood disease sickle cell anemia, a disease that attacks healthy red blood cells.
For the first nine years of Tyra’s life, she was in and out of the hospital getting blood transfusions.
“In one instance we weren’t able to get the blood she needed for almost five day,” Tyra’s father said.
The Watkins family knows how important it is to donate blood during the holiday season.
“During the holiday it’s especially hard to fathom, because people get together with family and friends, and they don’t always think about people who are sick with cancer or people who have blood diseases,” said the American Red Cross’s Jared Schultzman.
According to the American Red Cross, across the country, only 38 percent of Americans are eligible to give blood, and out of that 38 percent, 8 percent actually donate.
Tyra’s aunt, Eileen Randle, now organizes blood drives and wants to raise awareness to this problem.
“There should never be a time when the blood supply should go so low that we don’t have enough to respond to the hospitals, or somebody overseas even, or somebody in another area that might need it,” Randle said.
For the Watkins family, it’s a lesson learned.
“With one pint of blood you can save three lives,” Tyra said.
“It’s been different for me, because I’m scared of needles, and I’ve given blood 11 times now,” Frank Watkins said. “I’m proud of me because I’ve impacted somebody’s life.”
Remember, you can give blood all year round at your local American Red Cross center.