Why donate blood?
January is National Blood Donor Month. You might want to consider making a New Year’s resolution to give blood.
“There are many reasons someone in your community may need a blood transfusion — cancer, complications from surgery or childbirth, bleeding disorders, a car accident,” explains Diane Dale, who holds a Master of Nursing and is an instructor in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus.
Here, Dale outlines four reasons to give blood:
Blood is in short supply.
Someone in the United States requires blood every two seconds, according to the American Red Cross. “Blood cannot be manufactured — only donated,” explains Dale, a registered nurse, noting that she helps set up blood drives every two months at the hospital where she works.
Not only that, regional blood shortages often occur during winter months. The Red Cross notes that some blood types — like O-negative, which people of all blood types can receive safely, and AB-positive, which is rare — are always in short supply.
Few people are eligible to donate.
Many people who try to donate are turned down for medical reasons, such as low blood- iron levels, recent infections, taking certain prescription medications or recent travel to overseas locations considered high risk for diseases like malaria or hepatitis.
“Pregnant women, people who weigh less than 110 pounds and those who have had tattoos or body piercings within the past year are [also] not eligible to donate,” Dale explains, noting that blood donors are screened for their risk of carrying HIV and other blood-borne pathogens.
“Only 38 percent of prospective donors are eligible to donate,” she says. “So if you are eligible, we need you to give as much as you can. You can donate whole blood every 56 days.”
It’s quick and relatively painless.
While many people say they don’t have time to donate or are squeamish about needles, Dale emphasizes that the process is quick and no more painful than a flu shot. “The blood donation itself takes about 15 minutes, while the whole process of screening, donation and recovery takes about an hour,” she explains.
Prospective donors first fill out an eligibility questionnaire, and then a nurse checks their blood pressure and iron levels and does a general health assessment. If deemed eligible, the donor reclines on a gurney, and blood is collected through a punctured vein in the arm.
“The needles are sterile and single-use,” Dale says. “You don’t need to worry about catching a disease from donating blood.” After giving blood, donors are encouraged to relax for at least 10 to 15 minutes, drink plenty of fluids and help themselves to a cookie or piece of fruit to boost their energy before returning to regular activities.
Donating can save lives.
Each donation — about one pint of blood — can save as many as three lives, according to Dale, who suggests that you visit the American Red Cross website to find donation locations in your area.
“If you’re eligible to donate, you’re very special,” she stresses. “Remember to enjoy the feeling that you’ve helped someone else.”