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Donating Blood 🩸

January is National Blood Donor Month! Yes, this is the month that recognizes the efforts of those who donate their blood, platelets, and plasma to help save lives. Donating blood is a selfless act that makes a difference in many lives. Sadly, according to Red Cross [1], the national blood supply has dropped to concerning levels this year, so this is an excellent time to start thinking about becoming a donor, as well as spreading the word and encouraging others to donate!

Some facts about blood needs from the Red Cross Website [1]:

  • One donation can help save more than one life

  • Every 2 seconds, someone in the US needs blood or platelets

  • Blood and platelets cannot be manufactured, the only way of getting them is from volunteer donors

  • The blood type most hospitals request is type O

Let’s talk a little more about what it takes to be a donor including eligibility, what the process looks like, and the difference between donating blood, platelets, and/or plasma. Here’s a brief explanation based on the information obtained from the Red Cross [1]:

Whole blood donation

  • The whole blood donation is the most flexible type of donation.

  • Can be transfused in its original form or when its components are separated into red cells, plasma, and platelets, it can help multiple people

  • The actual donation is quick, but plan for an hour

  • You can donate whole blood as often as 56 days, up to 6 times a year

  • In most states, you must be 17 or older to donate

  • Must weigh more than 110 pounds and be in good health

Power Red Donation

  • A concentrated dose of red cells is donated

  • It uses an automated system (a machine) that separates the red blood cells from other blood components and then returns your plasma and platelets to you

  • Only type O, A negative, or B negative donors

  • Must be in good health and feeling well

  • Possible to donate every 112 days or up to 3 times per year

  • Male donors must be 17 years old, at least 5’1’’, and at least weigh 130 lbs.

  • Female donors must be at least 19 years old, at least 5’5’’, and weigh at least 150 lbs.

Platelet Donation

  • Platelets are tiny cells in the blood that form clots and stop bleeding

  • A single donation of platelets can yield several transfusable units

  • A machine collects the platelets along with some of your plasma and the red cells, and most of your plasma is returned to you

  • The process takes about 2.5-3 hours

  • It is possible to donate every seven days and up to 24 times/year

Plasma Donation

  • AB plasma can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type

  • Used in emergency and trauma situations to help stop bleeding

  • The same automated process is used for the other donations, where a machine separates the blood components, only keeps the plasma, and returns the platelets and red cells to you

  • The process takes about an hour and 15 minutes

  • It is possible to donate every 28 days and up to 13 times/year

Steps to take before and after donating

There are several essential things to do prior to your donation appointment. It is recommended to be well-rested, avoid fatty foods, and eat a healthy diet rich in iron. It is also recommended to be well hydrated and drink an extra 16oz of water or any other nonalcoholic liquid before the appointment. After your donation, it is important to eat a snack, stay well hydrated, keep eating iron-rich foods, and not do any heavy lifting or intense exercise for the rest of the day.

How does it help? Why does it make a difference, and where do blood donations go to?

The blood that volunteers donate goes to save and help many different lives around the US. Blood donations help people of all ages and with different conditions. These donations help people battling certain illnesses like cancer because certain cancers and specific cancer treatments do not allow the patients to produce their own blood [1]. For cancer patients, the ideal type is blood platelets. Other patients the donations help are heart surgery, organ transplant patients, and burn and accident victims [1].

None of us are exempt from needing blood one day, not only from an illness but also from unexpected incidents that can happen in our lives that might require a blood transfusion, like a car accident. According to Red Cross [1] a single car accident victim can need about 100 units of blood. Unfortunately, as we have learned, not everyone is eligible to donate blood, but there is always something you can do to help. So if you qualify, make an effort to go donate and change someone’s life today!


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