Donating blood is an honorable act that doesn’t take much time or effort. According to the American Red Cross, more than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day. With numbers like that, it’s obvious that our nation is bleeding for donors.
In honor of National Blood Donor Month, we want to highlight the facts of blood donation and how this simple act could possibly save your life or the life of a loved one.
If you’ve ever given blood, you know that there are some simple rules to follow before your donation.
You must first register, then provide a short medical history and have a mini-physical. It’s important to eat a fulfilling meal and drink at least 16 ounces of water before your donation. The mini-physical includes checking your temperature, blood pressure, pulse and hemoglobin to make sure you’re fit to donate blood. Once you’re cleared, the actual donation usually takes less than 12 minutes, and the blood you’ve donated must be used within 42 days.
There are four major blood groups: A, B, AB and O. Those with type O-negative blood are known as “universal donors” because anyone with any blood type can receive their blood. This type of blood is desired and in demand, but unfortunately, it’s frequently in short supply.
According to the American Red Cross, about one pint of blood is collected during a donation, which can help save up to three people’s lives.
According to Carter BloodCare, a healthy person can donate blood about every 56 days and the donated blood can be used in various situations. Says the blood bank:
“[Red cells] are used in the treatment of accident victims, to replace blood lost during surgery, to treat burn victims, and to increase the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity. They are also used in treatment of anemia that can’t be medically corrected.”
To give you more of an idea of how important blood donations are, the blood center provides figures for four common procedures. A car accident can take 50 units or more of blood while an organ transplant will take 40 units. A bone marrow transplant will take 20 units of blood and heart surgery requires six units.
The blood collected is also tested before a transfusion is observed. The Blood Centers of the Pacific states that 13 tests, including 11 for infectious diseases, are conducted on each package of donated blood.
If you’ve never given blood and don’t know if you’re qualified, here are some criteria that fit an ineligible candidate, per the American Red Cross:
- You have an acute infection.
- You’re pregnant or gave birth less than 6 weeks ago.
- You weigh less than 110 pounds. This is a safety measure.
- You’re taking a blood thinner, such as Coumadin, heparin or Pradaxa.
- You’ve had diabetes since 1980 or ever used United Kingdom-derived bovine (beef) insulin.
- You visited or lived for three months or more in the United Kingdom from January 1980 through December 1996.
- You visited or lived a cumulative time of five years or more from January 1980 to present time in any country in Europe.
- You’ve used intravenous drugs that were not prescribed by a physician.
Even if you’re not eligible, you can still help this cause by volunteering your time at a blood drive or making a donation to financially support a blood bank or center.
A tragedy can affect any of us at any given moment. While the American Red Cross estimates that 38 percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent volunteer every year. We should all be thankful for the active blood donors among us and should consider joining this important cause.
If you are thinking about donating blood or want more information on the procedure, visit the Addison-based Carter BloodCare Donor Center at 3959 Belt Line Rd. or online.