Lifesaving isn’t relegated just to uber-schooled physicians or quick thinking EMTs. Anybody can save a life, or even four lives, just by donating blood. Every January, National Blood Donor Month celebrates the tremendous impact that blood donors make in other people’s lives and seeks to raise awareness about the need for blood donation.
Blood donation is crucial because there is no substitute for human blood. Scientists have attempted and even trialed products similar to human blood, but as of right now, blood donation is the only way to be able to provide blood and blood products to people in need.
There are many reasons why a person may need to be given blood. Ultimately transfusions are used to replace red blood cells or plasma when a person has too little to function in a healthy manner. Red blood cells are important because the hemoglobin protein is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Plasma products are rich in factors that make clotting possible. Many conditions can require transfusions including traumatic accidents, surgeries, anemia, leukemia and other cancers.
Blood is a perishable product, much like milk. When a pint of blood is donated it is put in a bag with preservatives to protect the cells and make them last longer. Even with preservative most units of blood only last 45 days before having to be discarded.
Donated blood can be split into different pieces or components. One pint of blood can be split into packed red blood cells, plasma, cryoprecipitate, and platelets. Each component is used for different clinical reasons and can be given to different patients. Each single donation, can conceivably help four different people!
Winter months are particularly crucial as donors are lacking and blood needs rise, thus creating dangerous blood shortages for hospital across the country. So each January blood banks everywhere take the opportunity to raise awareness of this need while celebrating National Blood Donor Month.
Donating blood is safe and easy for most people. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh 110 pounds and be in good health. Each donor center will conduct a short medical history to ensure the safety of both the donors and potential recipients. If the donor is found to be acceptable, the donation can be completed immediately. The whole process usually takes no more than a half an hour. Such a small act for the donor can mean a lot to a needy recipient!
To ensure the supply is there when needed, blood donor centers are located in every region across the country. People interested in donation blood can locate their local blood donor center by visiting the American Association of Blood Banks’ website at http://www.aabb.org/Content/Donate_Blood/donateblood.htm .
Patients everywhere rely on the generosity of strangers to donate the blood that supplies hospitals blood banks. When blood is needed, blood banks turn to these donors to show up at their donor centers, and donate blood that saves lives. Through the publicity of National Blood Donor Month this January, hopefully more people will volunteer to donate and carry on the noble cause of saving lives.
American Association of Blood Banks. www.aabb.org. Accessed 12/25/2009.