During Trauma Awareness Month in May, the American Red Cross urges eligible donors to help ensure lifesaving blood is available for patients with traumatic injuries and other serious medical needs by donating blood or platelets.

According to the National Trauma Institute, trauma accounts for about 41 million emergency department visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions in the U.S. annually.

"A single car accident victim can need as many as 100 units of blood," said Christy Peters, external communications manager for the Northern Ohio Red Cross Blood Services. "In trauma situations, when there's no time to check a patient's blood type, emergency personnel reach for type O-negative red blood cells and type AB plasma."

O-negative red blood cells and AB plasma can be transfused into any patient, regardless of blood type, making donors with these universal blood types an important part of the Red Cross trauma team. Less than 7 percent of the population has type O-negative blood, and only about 4 percent of the population has type AB blood.

Platelets may also be needed to help with clotting in cases of massive bleeding. Because platelets must be transfused within five days of donation, there is a constant often critical need to keep up with hospital demand.

"As a trauma surgeon, I know that a readily available blood supply can mean the difference between life and death for patients in the most serious situations," said Dr. Gregory J. Jurkovich, board chairman for the National Trauma Institute, fellow in the American College of Surgeons and professor and vice chairman of the Department of Surgery-University of California Davis Health.

"Blood products can only be provided by generous donors, so I urge you to roll up a sleeve and help save lives."

In 1999, donated blood helped save the life of Ohio resident Michael Harper after a severe auto accident. He suffered injuries to his head, arm, leg, wrist and pelvis, plus experienced kidney failure and respiratory distress.

He needed more than 60 units of blood to save his life immediately. After many following surgeries, Michael needed more than 300 units of blood in total.

Today Michael is thrilled he was able to survive and go one to marry, have three children and become a math teacher and coach. "Blood donations helped save my life," he said. "Blood is a resource that must be offered out of care for others. It is safe and quick to give and a gift worth giving."

Blood and platelet donors of all types are currently needed. Those who come out to donate blood or platelets by May 14 will have a chance to win one of three $1,000 gift card shopping sprees from GiftCertificates.com.

Donation appointments can be scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-733-2767.