Blood Donors Needed!
< Jan. 07, 2009 > -- During the holiday season, the nation's blood supply tends to dip dangerously low because of a decline in donations.
Now that the holiday season has ended and 2009 has begun, there is still one gift left to give - a pint of blood. This gift is one that is desperately needed after New Year's Day. January is National Blood Donor Month and there is a need for eligible donors to roll up their sleeves and contribute a pint of blood for the well-being of communities.
"Everyone knows someone who has needed blood," says Jill Allen, director of donor recruitment for the American Red Cross' Lewis and Clark Blood Services Region, in Salt Lake City. "There is only a select group that can supply blood, and there is always a great demand for blood. If you can do that, you should share in the responsibility of making sure there is enough available."
Annually, almost 5 million people in the United States receive blood transfusions requiring almost 14 million units of whole blood and red blood cells, according to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Patients and trauma victims have a need for almost 39,000 units of red blood cells on any given day. People need the real thing, and scientists have not been able to develop an artificial substitute for human blood.
"We need people to call their local blood collection facility and schedule an appointment to donate blood," says Jennifer Garfinkel, spokeswoman for the AABB, formerly the American Association of Blood Banks. "One pint of blood can save up to three lives."
Blood Donations Decrease During the Winter
The blood supply usually decreases around the holiday season after a "perfect storm" of obstacles, Garfinkel says. First, there are the holidays themselves. "People aren't on their regular schedules, especially people who are regular donors," says Garfinkel. "They are concentrating on other things. You also have school blood drives, whether it's high schools or college classes, that aren't taking place during holiday vacations."
During the cold and flu season, eligible blood donors may become too sick to contribute. And then there is the weather, which becomes worse in December. "If it's snowing outside, people aren't going to leave their houses on icy streets to go donate," Garfinkel says.
An estimated 37.8 percent of the US population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, according to the AABB. A donor can be disqualified due to their medical history, weight, or illness. If an individual has been ineligible to donate blood in the past, it does not mean that they will be unable to be a donor in the future.
"People need to know they should always ask if they are eligible, because the criteria are always changing. Maybe I couldn't donate today because my iron levels weren't what they should be, but that changes over time, " Allen says. "I think many people are surprised to find that they are eligible to be donors. Don't make the assumption that you aren't eligible for any specific reason. Really look into it."
Shelf Life of Blood Products
After blood has been spun down to its individual components, it still has a limited shelf life, according to the American Red Cross. Platelets must be used within five days of donation. The need for platelets is critical to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
Red blood cells can be stored for a maximum of 42 days if they are refrigerated. When frozen, red blood cells can last up to 10 years. A small portion of the red blood supply is frozen because of the high cost involved. Red blood cells are given to individuals with blood disorders, trauma victims, and surgical patients.
Plasma is usually frozen and must be used within one year. This product is usually administered to burn victims or people requiring massive transfusions.
Preparation Tips for Blood Donation
The American Red Cross recommends eating a good breakfast or lunch with iron-rich foods - red meat, fish, poultry, beans, raisins, prunes, or iron-fortified cereal. Fatty foods should be avoided, because fatty material in donated blood can interfere with infection testing. Sometimes, blood donations have to be discarded due to the fatty material in the blood.
Donors should drink extra water and fluids to replace the liquid donated, but caffeinated beverages should be avoided. Clothing with sleeves that can be raised above the elbow should be worn to blood drives. Rest after donating blood, and avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for at least five hours. It is important to drink plenty of fluids a day or so after a donation to re-hydrate the body.
Always consult your physician for more information.
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Blood Donations and Banking
Blood banking is the process that takes place in the laboratory to ensure that donated blood, or blood products, are safe before they are used in blood transfusions and other medical procedures. Blood banking includes typing the blood for transfusion and testing for infectious diseases.
Each unit of blood is broken down into components, such as red blood cells, plasma and platelets. One unit of whole blood, once its separated, may be transfused to several patients, each with different needs.
Volunteer blood donors must pass certain criteria. A donor must be at least 17 years of age and in good health. A weight of at least 110 pounds is required, and the donor must pass the physical and health history examination given prior to donations. Some states permit persons younger than 17 years to donate blood, with parental consent.
A certain set of standard tests are performed in the laboratory once blood is donated, including, but not limited to, the following:typing:
Each blood component serves many functions. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues in the body and are commonly used in the treatment of anemia. Platelets help the blood to clot and are used in the treatment of leukemia and other forms of cancer. White blood cells help to fight infection, and aid in the immune process.
Plasma is the watery, liquid part of the blood in which the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are suspended. It is needed to carry the many parts of the blood through the bloodstream. Plasma serves many functions. It helps to maintain blood pressure; provides proteins for blood clotting; and balances the levels of sodium and potassium. '
Cryoprecipitate AHF is a portion of the plasma that contains clotting factors that help to control bleeding.
Always consult your physician for more information.