WASHINGTON, DC – According to a yearly survey by the American Red Cross, more than 25% of Americans in 2014 have no emergency savings in their blood banks. Of those who do have emergency savings, only about half have the recommended six months’ worth of blood readily accessible.
“People can barely save enough cash to pay the bills, pay off the mortgage, I definitely understand that,” responded Wendy Fargo of the American Red Cross and a newly-wed with iron-deficiency anemia. “Saving blood isn’t on the table for most.”
For many Americans like Wendy, it has been very difficult to prioritize any kind of saving – money, blood, sperm, or urine – given the recent recession.
Fargo added: “I don’t even know my blood type.”
Unfortunately, the lack of blood bank savings is playing itself out more frequently in American healthcare and is leading to extreme scenarios for patients without emergency savings in dire need of life-saving transfusion: they borrow someone else’s blood.
“I feel so bad asking someone for cash when I can’t make ends meet,” says Scott Trade, a teacher prone to spontaneous nosebleeds and earbleeds. “Imagine how I feel when I ask someone for their blood? I try to pay them back as soon as possible, but sometimes it’s not possible.” He added: “My parents hate when I keep asking for blood.”
Most experts agree that the best thing people can do to prepare for blood-soaked bumps down the road is to have quick access to an emergency blood savings account. Though blood advisors acknowledge today’s difficult hematologic climate, it should, if anything, be more motivation to create an emergency fund. Ideally, experts say, an emergency fund should last at least six months. The most common reason for needing an emergency fund is due to a sudden and unexpected loss of blood.
“Blood loss comes in many forms, which is why it’s so difficult to manage,” says hematologist JD Morgan. “Blood loss sucks and it never happens at a convenient time.”
According to blood advisors, creating an emergency fund isn’t impossible but it requires time and patience. First thing’s first: start small.
“Each month, just save a half unit of blood,” says blood bank technologist Chris Schwab. “Before you know it, your circulatory savings will get bigger and bigger and you’ll get used to that blood not circulating in your body. You won’t miss it at all.”
At a minimum, experts recommend opening a savings account at your current blood bank and making monthly deposits. Some blood banks have the option of scheduling bi-monthly phlebotomy, thereby making blood savings automatic. They also recommend taking the time to research banks on minimum blood balance requirements and bloody overdraft fees. Some blood banks may even offer free checking accounts and free ATM use.
Another suggestion is to use high-yield blood bank savings accounts to maximize interest.
“Keep the fund fairly liquid so that the blood is quickly accessed in case of an emergency,” says Dr. Morgan.
Finally, the last piece of advice is to be disciplined and frugal.
“Don’t go off hemorrhaging blood left and right, just for the sake of it,” says Schwab. “Be smart. You just never know when you might exsanguinate and need blood.”