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Published: July, 2010; Vol 7, Num 2

 

Blood and organ donation is essential to the nation’s health care, but not enough people step up to the plate. In a series beginning this month, LIFELINES explores donation issues.

Donations Keep Blood Flowing

Change is no stranger in the world of health care, but the need for blood is a constant, as is its source: volunteer donation. Every two seconds, blood supplies are tapped to treat injuries and illnesses.

Blood drives are staged at workplaces and shopping centers, but participation is not sufficient. Apathy and lack of awareness are often the reasons. Shortages result and medical care suffers. If donors gave three times a year, blood would always be available. One donation can help save three lives.

Blood Facts

Molecular makeup establishes blood type. Heredity determines whether a person has A, B, AB or Type O blood and also whether it is Rh “positive” or “negative.”  Most people have Type O blood that is Rh positive.

To reduce the likelihood of severe or fatal allergic reaction, transfused blood must closely match the type and factor of the recipient. The exception is Type O-negative. Anyone can receive it, but just seven percent of the population has it. Inevitably, this blood is always in short supply. 

Blood type crosses all ethnicities, but predominates in certain groups. Type O is prevalent among Latinos. Asians are heavy on Type B.  As a result, donations from all minority populations are essential in meeting the constant, across-the-board need for blood.

A standard transfusion is three pints. However, a severely injured car accident victim might require100 pints. Donated blood has a shelf life of 42 days. Stockpiling is not possible. If you have a need for blood and your type is not available, regardless of how many other pints are on the shelf, for you there is a blood shortage.

Donating Facts

  • Seventeen is the minimum donor age (16 with parental consent in some states).
  • Donation is safe. A sterile needle is used.
  • Donation takes less than 12 minutes; the entire process – registration, mini-physical, donating and refreshments – takes 75 minutes.
  • The average body contains ten pints of blood. One pint is given during donation.
  • Donors may donate red blood cells every 56 days.
  • Donors may donate platelets every seven days up to 24 times per year.
  • Donated blood is tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and other infectious diseases.
  • Information given during donation is confidential.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]