The habit of giving life

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Since there is no substitute for human blood, hospitals rely on donors to help people of all ages: accident and burn victims, patients undergoing surgery and organ transplants, and individuals battling cancer. About one-third of the nation’s population is eligible to donate, but less than ten percent does.

The joy of giving at American Red Cross | American Red Cross
The joy of giving at American Red Cross | American Red Cross

This low level of eligible donor participation is surprising, especially in a city like San Diego, where donating blood is so easy.  In fact, thanks in large part to the San Diego Blood Bank and American Red Cross Southern California, San Diegans have multiple opportunities for eligible individuals to donate blood every day. Through blood-mobiles, community drives, and blood donation centers, these two well-run non-profit organizations ensure that blood is available to the hospitals in San Diego County. After it is donated, blood is processed, tested, stored, and then distributed to hospitals where it is used immediately or stored for future transfusion.

Blood donation is one of the most important things you can do for your community. It allows you to help save the life of a premature infant or trauma victim, or vastly improve the health of someone fighting a chronic disease or cancer. Since blood cannot be manufactured in a laboratory, San Diego hospitals rely on donors for the gift of life.

The donation process could not be easier. Donors start by making an appointment with a neighborhood community blood drive or blood donation center. When they arrive for their appointment, they complete a health history questionnaire followed by a mini-screening where their blood pressure, pulse, hemoglobin, temperature, and cholesterol are measured. They then settle into a comfortable donor bed and relax as their phlebotomist cleans their arm and draws the blood with a new, sterile needle. On average, it takes less than ten minutes to donate a whole pint of blood. When the donation is complete, donors are asked to sit in a restful spot or relaxation lounge, enjoy a snack, and take it easy for fifteen minutes before leaving.

Donating at a mobile drive | San Diego Blood Bank
Donating at a mobile drive | San Diego Blood Bank
In the lab at San Diego Blood Bank | San Diego Blood Bank
In the lab at San Diego Blood Bank | San Diego Blood Bank

When donors depart, they are not forgotten. San Diego Blood Bank offers a personalized health portal where they can see the results of their mini-checkups and donation history, and American Red Cross provides an app which allows users to follow their blood journey every step of the way as it makes its way to a hospital to help someone in need. Donors can donate every 56 days, and most find it easiest to make their next appointment before they leave.

To help make blood donation a habit, San Diego Blood Bank created The Guardians Circle, a membership-based appreciation program for donors that pledge to donate within eight weeks from the day they are eligible to do so. Guardians go above and beyond to ensure local patients have lifesaving blood throughout the year and support their community by answering the call to donate blood when they are eligible.

However, the real reward of blood donation has little to do with incentive programs and other tokens of gratitude. People who make blood donation a habit do it because they feel good about it. They benefit from heartfelt gratitude and the satisfaction of knowing they have helped someone—or even saved a life—right here in their own community.

A happy transfusion recipient | San Diego Blood Bank
A happy transfusion recipient | San Diego Blood Bank


1.  Host a blood drive
2. Make a financial donation
3. Participate in a research program
4. Volunteer at a donation center

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