Why MD Anderson needs blood donors
Coronavirus Precautions: Due to our response to COVID-19, all blood donations at MD Anderson Blood Donor Center locations are being held by appointment only to help control donor flow and manage the amount of individuals in one room. We must also be cautious about accepting donors who may have traveled from high case load areas. Therefore, anyone who has traveled internationally in the past 14 days will not be able to donate.
It is safe to donate blood during this time. COVID-19 is not a bloodborne disease. It’s a respiratory virus, and there has been no evidence that COVID-19 could be transmitted or contracted through a blood donation or a blood transfusion. Your blood donation will help ensure an adequate blood supply for our patients during this critical time.
Where to Donate
Please review our current locations and operating hours below.
Questions about donating? Please call us at 713-792-7777.
Blood Donor Center - Holly Hall
Currently open for all donors and accepting all blood donations by appointment only.
2555 Holly Hall St., Houston, TX 77054
- Open 7 days a week: 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
Blood Donor Center - Main Building
Currently only open to MD Anderson employees working on campus for platelet donations. By appointment only.
Floor 2, near Elevator D
1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030
- Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Saturday-Sunday: Currently closed on weekends during our response to COVID-19
Self-parking validated for Garages 2 and 10.
MD Anderson employees should schedule an appointment to donate blood at our Employees Only location in the Main Building (B8.4371), platelets , at our Main Builing Blood Donor center or at our Holly Hall Blood Donor Center.
Blood Donor Center - Mays Clinic
Currently closed during our response to COVID-19.
Floor 2, near The Tree Sculpture
1220 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030
For appointments or questions, please click below or call us at 713-792-7777.
Our cancer patients need approximately 200 units of red blood cells and 600 units of platelets each day. MD Anderson Blood Bank depends on local blood and platelet donors to meet this need. And, this need is especially great right now during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Most blood and plasma donations are used to help our patients with blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Some replace blood lost during surgery. But all blood donations are critically important to our cancer patients’ recovery.
Here are 12 questions that I commonly hear from potential blood donors.
Who can donate blood to the MD Anderson Blood Bank?
Healthy individuals who weigh more than 110 pounds, are at least 17 years old and meet the basic criteria. But potential donors must also meet other requirements to qualify.
For instance, women who are currently pregnant are not eligible to donate blood. Neither is anyone who has ever had cancer before — except for two very specific types: basal cell carcinoma and cervical cancer in-situ.
Can I give blood if I have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure?
Can I still give blood if I’m taking medication?
Yes. Certain medications may disqualify you from donating, but the list is updated frequently. That’s why we encourage you to contact us first if you’re interested, instead of just assuming you can’t give. Most medications are acceptable.
For instance, the blood thinner Plavix used to require a 30-day wait, across the board. Now, it only requires a two-week wait for someone donating platelets. There’s no whole-blood restriction.
Can I still donate if I’ve been in the military?
Yes, you are now eligible to donate. Previously, those who lived in U.S. military bases in Europe were not allowed to donate. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently changed this. Our military members can now donate blood and help support our cancer patients.
Can I still donate if I have traveled outside the U.S.?
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, anyone who has traveled internationally must wait 14 days before attempting to donate, in case they were exposed to the virus.
New FDA guidelines have reduced the deferral period for malaria-risk travel from 12 months to three months.
Additional details on temporary and permanent disqualifications related to travel can be found on our website.
Is it safe to donate blood during the coronavirus pandemic? What if I’ve had COVID-19?
Yes, it’s safe for both donors and recipients, even if you’ve recovered from COVID-19. It is a respiratory virus, not a blood-borne disease. And there’s no evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted through a blood donation or transmitted through a blood transfusion.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the blood donation process, MD Anderson requires Blood Bank employees and donors to wear masks. We’re also only accepting blood donations by appointment to ensure social distancing and limit the number of people in close proximity at any given time.
How long do I need to wait after having a cold, the flu or a cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection to donate blood?
CMV is so common that we feel it’s a waste of time to test for it, but by removing white blood cells from our donations, we provide CMV safe blood components. Many people are CMV positive and don’t even know it, because they don’t have any symptoms.
Like COVID-19, colds and the flu are respiratory viruses, so they are not spread through transfusions. Generally speaking, if you are feeling well and healthy right now and have been free of symptoms for at least a week, you are welcome to donate.
Where can I donate blood for MD Anderson patients?
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our location at 2555 Holly Hall is our only Texas Medical Center location currently open to the public. But a mobile unit regularly holds blood drives at MD Anderson’s locations in West Houston, The Woodlands, League City and Sugar Land, and throughout the Greater Houston area. Find a blood drive near you.
While they're not open due to COVID-19 restrictions, MD
normally accepts blood donations at two other locations in the Texas Medical Center. One is on the second floor of our Main Building, near elevator D. The other is on the second floor of the Mays Clinic, near the Tree Sculpture.
Can I donate blood to another organization and have it transferred to MD Anderson?
No. Blood donors must give directly to MD Anderson. The only way to ensure blood goes to MD Anderson patients is to donate blood at one of our MD Anderson Blood Bank locations or through an MD Anderson community blood drive.
Why is there almost as great a need for platelets as for whole blood?
Cancer patients tend to require more platelets than whole blood donations. When patients develop a dangerously low platelet count due to chemotherapy or a stem cell transplant, there’s always a risk that they could start bleeding spontaneously. So, we provide transfusions of platelets to prevent that.
We also give platelets to patients who are already bleeding. Some conditions — such as acute promyelocytic leukemia — require patients to have higher platelet counts before they can undergo certain procedures, such as endoscopies, biopsies and lumbar punctures. So, they need platelets, too.
How often can I donate blood? What about platelets?
You can donate whole blood every eight weeks. You can donate platelets every 48 hours — up to 24 times a year.
What’s the one thing you want people to know about donating blood?
Don’t just assume you can’t donate. A lot of people think, “Well, I’ve got high blood pressure.” Or, “I’ve got diabetes, so I can’t donate.” And that’s not necessarily true. The list of medications and travel restrictions changes all the time.
The best way to find out for sure is to call the MD Anderson Blood Bank at 713-792-7777. We look forward to seeing you.
Fernando Martinez, M.D., is a pathologist at MD Anderson and Medical Director of Transfusion Services and Donor Operations.
Schedule an appointment to donate blood online by calling 713-792-7777.
When surgeons removed a cancerous tumor called a liposarcoma from Dan Ratliff’s pelvis, they also removed an artery and vein in his leg that were blocking their access to the tumor. Dan lost a great deal of blood during the 16-hour surgery, and received 12 units of donated blood.
Each day, cancer patients at MD Anderson need about 200 units of red blood cells and 600 units of platelets. However, because schools have been closed and most community events have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult to collect the amount of blood and platelets our patients depend on each day.
Surgery patients depend on blood donors
Dan’s wife, Sherry, recalls the stressful day when they learned that Dan’s surgery might need to be postponed due to a lack of donated blood. Ultimately, his care team confirmed there was enough blood supply to perform the surgery, which successfully removed Dan’s tumor.
“The need for blood is critical, because so many patients need complex surgeries like my husband’s,” Sherry says. “Our experience at MD Anderson was life-changing. Without the surgery, my husband might be very ill right now, but because of MD Anderson, he’s doing incredibly well.”
Due to our response to COVID-19, all blood donations at MD Anderson
Blood Donor Center locations are being held by appointment only.