Saving Lives through Donating Blood

January is National Blood Donor Month. Consider the following facts from America's Blood Centers about how donated blood is crucial to saving lives:

* Blood is needed every three seconds.
* One out of three people need donated blood in their lifetime.
* One out of ten hospital patients needs a blood transfusion.

However, while 60% of the American population is eligible to donate blood, only 5% actually do.

Donors Needed

Who needs donated blood? People from all different backgrounds and demographics need blood, including trauma victims, surgery patients, and other patients receiving treatment for diseases such as leukemia, cancer and sickle cell disease. And with over 30% of the population needing blood at some point in their lives, more than likely one of these people is someone you are friends with, are related to, or is even yourself.

Donor Eligibility

Eligibility for blood donation involves certain criteria: good health, at least 17 years of age, at least 110 pounds and someone who passes the physical and health history exams given prior to donation.

According to the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), the history given during the screening process helps to protect the life of both the donor and the recipient. Questions are asked pertaining to exposure to transfusion-transmissible diseases and other high-risk factors.

The simple physical includes blood pressure, pulse, temperature, as well as a finger prick blood test to look for anemia.

Donor Concerns

Some people worry about donating blood. They may wonder what the effect has on their body or how painful the process will be. But the donor's body replenishes its lost fluid in only 24 hours, and lost red blood cells generally within a few weeks. Donors can safely donate blood once every eight weeks.

For those who have never donated blood before, they may simply fear the unknown. The process itself is very simple. After the routine screening mentioned above, the donor relaxes in a reclining chair while the donation is performed. The AABB describes the rest of the process:

"The skin covering the inner part of the elbow joint is cleansed. A new, sterile needle connected to plastic tubing and a blood bag is inserted into an arm vein. The donor is asked to squeeze repeatedly his or her hand to help blood flow from the vein into the blood bag. Typically, one unit of blood, roughly equivalent to a pint, is collected. After the blood is collected, it is sent to the laboratory for testing and component preparation. The donor is escorted to an observation area for light refreshments and a brief rest period."

The visit only takes about 20 minutes of your time, is safe and easy, and could possibly save the life of another person. If you have never donated blood before, or have not recently, and are eligible, consider donating blood on a routine basis starting this month.

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