The New Year is a time for resolutions. Get healthy, save money, give toward a worthy cause. What if there were a way to really give of yourself and save lives, without having to spend a dime? There is a way to do just that–blood donation. In fact, a single donation can potentially help more than one person in need. One pint of blood can be separated into up to four main usable components: red blood cells, which help carry oxygen to vital organs; platelets, which form some of the building blocks of clots; plasma, the liquid part of blood that also contains clotting factors and cryoprecipitate that is made up of concentrated clotting factors that help stop bleeding.
According to the American Red Cross, the entire donation process, from arrival to completion takes about an hour and 15 minutes and includes health screening, paperwork processing and recovery period, with a snack. The actual time for the donation lasts only 8-10 minutes for a whole blood donation, but could be longer if you choose to donate only a part of the blood, such as plasma or platelets. Single blood components may be donated through a process called apheresis. Only individuals who pass an initial screening process and are healthy enough to do so may donate, and the process itself is not as painful as one might think. All blood is tested.
Who benefits from receiving a transfusion? Anyone who has excessive bleeding or severe anemia. This may include people who have medical conditions that make it difficult to form blood clots, people who undergo surgery, pregnant women and even some fetuses with anemia need a transfusion before birth (see the Fetal Intervention website).
Although we as doctors and surgeons continue to work to identify patients at risk for bleeding, to stop or control bleeding quickly as well looking for ways to safely avoid or minimize the need for transfusion, there is currently no substitute for blood when it is truly needed.
So what are you waiting for? You don’t have to be a doctor to save a life, you just have to be willing to give a little bit of your time, and a little bit of yourself. Donate today.