The Importance of Donating Blood

Megan Wood

Most people with trypanophobia, or a fear of needles, would consider donating blood to be out of the question. However, for many Americans, and people around the world, donated blood is gift of life. Annually, there are 4.8 million American lives saved thanks to donated blood used during transfusions. There are many important uses for donated blood and plenty of reasons to do so.

Among these reasons is the constant need for regular blood donations. Blood can only be stored for a limited time before it must be used. Each donation of blood can be separated to create four products of blood: red cells, platelets, plasma, and cryoprecipitate. On average, an adult has 10 pints of blood flowing throughout their body, and they give about one pint during a donation. From one pint of blood, 2-3 products can be created to save more than one life. A single blood donation can save three lives. However, the shelf life of red blood cells is only 35-42 days and platelets have an even shorter life with only a five-day span.

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for human blood and one out of every three people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their life. Blood is needed every two seconds and according to the American Red Cross, over 41,000 blood donations are needed daily. Blood can’t be manufactured and is necessary for many life-saving technologies. From every person who enters a hospital, one out of seven of them will need donated blood.

People of all different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds benefit from donated blood. A single pint of blood can sustain a premature infant for up to two weeks. Some leukemia patients undergoing treatment may require 8 units of platelets daily, and a single trauma victim may need 40 or more units at a single time. Donated blood can also be used in transfusions for people with life-threatening conditions such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Children suffering from

anemia thanks to malnutrition or malaria and pregnant women with ectopic pregnancies and hemorrhage before and after giving birth need blood. People undergoing complex medical and surgical procedures need blood, as do cancer patients of all kinds. Hemophiliacs, accident victims, and people suffering from severe trauma after both man-made or natural disasters need blood. It is necessary in many cases to save lives and isn’t limited to any one group.

Donating blood can also have benefits for the donor however. Aside from feeling a sense of pride and joy at the contribution to saving lives, donating blood could make your blood flow better, help your iron levels stay balanced, and possibly help you live longer. You’ll also receive a free, mini checkup when you donate blood to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.

Donating blood is a simple four step process consisting of registration, a quick medical history check and a miniature checkup, the actual donation, and then refreshments. The donation process normally takes 15 minutes to 1 hour; however, the actual donation only takes around 10 minutes. The needles used for the donation are all sterile and discarded after each use; a needle is never used more than once. Half of donors are females and half are males. Only 37% of people in America is eligible to donate blood, and unfortunately, less than ten% of those who can donate regularly. In fact, according to the American Red Cross, 19% of donors do so occasionally, 31% are first time donors, and 50% are regular volunteers. Only 7% of people have O- blood, otherwise known as the universal blood, and is needed in times of emergencies where the blood type isn’t known.

To donate blood, a person must be in good general health and at least 18 years old. A person of 16 years of age must have parent permission before they’re eligible. A person must be 5’4″ and at least a 110lbs. If a person is under 5’4″, they must be over 110lbs before they can give blood. Be prepared to have a photo ID ready.

Donating blood is a free and easy process with many benefits. One donation can go to saving another person’s life, if not more than one. The World Health Association describes donating as “The most precious gift anyone can give to another person”.

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