Being a Blood Hero

I was out of the loop for a week and a half due to some health issues, but during this time I donated blood for the first time.  It was a fascinating experience, and one I plan on repeating in May when there is another blood drive.  I’m donating blood for health reasons, but while donating was for my benefit, it is also hopefully going to help someone else.

After donating I went on the website and started reading the statistics and information about donating blood.  Here are the statistics from the company I donated with.  Blood Centers of the Pacific.

Blood Centers of the Pacific helps 50,000 patients every year with blood donated by community volunteers.

BCP works closely with businesses, community groups, non-profit organizations, churches, synagogues, schools and colleges to schedule “on-site” mobile blood drives. We process more than 200,000 blood components, and distribute about 145,000 pints of blood and almost 24,000 units of platelets to more than 40 hospitals annually.

So, wow, that is kind of amazing how much blood is used.  And this is just in Northern California.  You add in all the other blood banks and the Red Cross, and that’s a lot of blood used and needed.

And here is some information taken from Wikipedia regarding blood donations.

Storage and blood shelf life

The collected blood is usually stored as separate components, and some of these have short shelf lives. There are no storage solutions to keep platelets for extended periods of time, though some are being studied as of 2008.[78] The longest shelf life used for platelets is seven days.[79] Red blood cells, the most frequently used component, have a shelf life of 35–42 days at refrigerated temperatures.[80][81] This can be extended by freezing the blood with a mixture of glycerol but this process is expensive, rarely done, and requires an extremely cold freezer for storage.[37] Plasma can be stored frozen for an extended period of time and is typically given an expiration date of one year and maintaining a supply is less of a problem.[82]

Demand for blood

The limited storage time means that it is difficult to have a stockpile of blood to prepare for a disaster. The subject was discussed at length after the September 11 attacks in the United States, and the consensus was that collecting during a disaster was impractical and that efforts should be focused on maintaining an adequate supply at all times.[83] Blood centers in the U.S. often have difficulty maintaining even a three day supply for routine transfusion demands.[84]

Donation levels

The World Health Organization recognizes World Blood Donor Day on 14 June each year to promote blood donation. This is the birthday of Karl Landsteiner, the scientist who discovered the ABO blood group system.[85] The theme of the 2012 World Blood Donor Day campaign, “Every blood donor is a hero” focuses on the idea that everyone can become a hero by giving blood. As of 2008, the WHO estimated that more than 81 million units of blood were being collected annually.[86]

In the United States it is estimated that only 111 million citizens are eligible blood donors,[87] or 37% of the population.[88] However less than 10% donate annually.[88] In the UK the NHS reports blood donation levels at “only 4%”.

Donor health benefits

In patients prone to iron overload, blood donation prevents the accumulation of toxic quantities.[90] Donating blood may reduce the risk of heart disease for men, but the link has not been firmly established and may be from selection bias because donors are screened for health problems.[91][92]

Research published in 2012 demonstrated that repeated blood donation is effective in reducing blood pressure, blood glucose, HbA1c, low-density lipoprotein/high-density lipoprotein ratio, and heart rate.[93]

I think donating blood is a really amazing thing.  I never did it before because I thought I couldn’t handle it.  And after being ill right after, and being a bit woozy all day, I’m not sure how well I handled it, but my doctor said I could. So, I plan on doing it again two more times this year.  I like thinking how I might help someone who needs it.  I think it’s something we should all be thinking of doing.

Do you donate blood?  Have you ever thought about it?  Are you one of the 90% of people that don’t donate?  Maybe you could consider it. Check out your local blood banks or the Red Cross.  Talk to your doctor.  Can you be a Blood Hero?

Signing off

~Kate

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