Did you know that every time you donate blood, you could be saving three lives? That you can store your own blood for future needs?
There are many myths about blood donation and its safety after the initial scare in the 1990s when unsafe blood banking practices came to light due to people contracting HIV and hepatitis. However, the FDA put rigid guidelines into place to ensure sterile procedures and proper equipment disposal.
About 5 million people get blood transfusions every year. They are often necessary after surgery, an injury, cancer treatments, heart surgeries, organ transplants or for those with sickle cell anemia. For instance, one liver transplant can require up to 120 units of blood!
With January being Blood Donor Month, it’s important that we all realize that there’s never enough blood in the blood banks. The Red Cross, which represents virtually all U.S. blood banks, often faces shortages, so they need our help. The amount of blood needed to fill our blood banks is incredible … see these facts from The Red Cross:
- Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
- More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day.
- The blood type most often requested is Type O.
- Although an estimated 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, less than 10% actually do.
About Blood Donation
Here’s some important information if you’re thinking about donating blood:
- Age. You must be at least 16 or 17 to donate blood (depending on your state).
- Weight. You must weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Double red cell donors must meet different criteria.
- Time. Plan on spending approximately 1 ½ – 2 hours at your appointment (depending on your type of donation), although the donation itself takes only 8 – 10 minutes.
- Types of Donations.
- Whole Blood Donations
- Platelet Donations
- Plasma Donations
- Double Red Cell Donations
- You can donate blood every eight weeks (for whole blood), every 7 days for platelets (up to 24 times/year), every 28 days for plasma (up to 13 times a year), and every 112 days (up to three times/year) for double red blood cell donations.
What Is Autologous Blood Banking?
Autologous blood banking or storing your own blood is the best way to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction to incompatible donated blood during a medical procedure or that you never receive tainted blood. Although allergies to transfused blood are rare, it can occur even if you receive the right blood type.
If you are having an upcoming surgery, talk to your doctor in advance about storing your blood. Know that most hospital can only store it for 35 days unless they offer long-term frozen blood storage. There are some private facilities such as Idant Laboratories that can store blood for up to 10 years. These blood banks can send it to you at any time overnight and it will take less than 60 – 90 minutes to thaw. Under these circumstances, most people store two units of blood.
The Red Cross is always seeking sponsors for blood drives, blood donors and volunteers to work in the clinics. The importance of neighbors helping neighbors in need can’t be minimized. To find a local blood drive in your area, click here.