Where to Give Blood in Pittsburgh
Vitalant operates 10 donation centers in western Pennsylvania.
The number of events and gatherings canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic can’t be counted. While foregone celebrations such as the Fourth of July fireworks or Big Butler Fair might be the most noticeable, there’s another essential gathering that hasn’t been taking place as usual this year: blood drives.
That devastated the available blood supply. “It dipped to emergency levels across the United States,” says Kristen Lane, marketing manager at Vitalant’s location in Pittsburgh. “But we’ve all put our thinking caps on, and we’ve tried to make donating safe and easy for everyone in more creative ways,” including shifting the normal blood drives a company or organization might have to by-appointment donations.
Vitalant is the organization that, from 1951 until 2017, was known as the Central Blood Bank. At that time, the organization merged with a national nonprofit that linked blood supply organizations across the country; a rebranding of the overall organization led to the name change.
Vitalant operates 10 donation centers in western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh-area locations can be found in the North and South Hills, Harmar Township, Green Tree and Downtown; additional centers are in Cranberry Township, Coraopolis, Monroeville, Butler and Greensburg.
The process is easy; sign up for an appointment, give some basic medical information and head to the location of your choice (where enhanced safety measures, including timed donations and universal mask use for both donors and staff, have been implemented) to have your blood drawn.
Vitalant is testing all donations for COVID-19 antibodies — a critical step in the continued fight against the virus. Just as importantly, however, is the regular and constant need for donations.
“The need for blood is constant,” Lane says. “People have surgeries every day; people have traumatic accidents every day.
“The need for blood never goes away.”
How to Donate
- The easiest way to begin the process is to make an account at vitalant.org to fill out health information and make an appointment. You can also reach the organization at 877/25-VITAL.
- Prospective donors must satisfy a list of eligibility requirements; Vitalant staff will ensure you’re qualified to donate. All donors must be at least 16 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good general health. “If you’re not feeling well that day, even if it’s something as simple as a little cold,” Lane says, “we’ll ask you to come back another day.” It’s important to eat a hearty meal and hydrate about an hour beforehand; a salty snack the day before helps, too.
- Your full visit will take about an hour, but most of that is intake (and the cookies at the end). If you’re making a standard, whole-blood donation, the process itself only lasts for 10-12 minutes.
- Tax-deductible cash donations are also needed, and are a good way to support those in urgent need if you’re unable to donate personally. Donate at: vitalant.org/Donate/Donate-Funds.aspx
- Donation hours vary by location.