Although the holiday season is over, a person can still give a gift to somebody else: the gift of life – a blood donation – especially since January is recognized as National Blood Donor Month.Since 1970, January has been recognized as Blood Donor Month. Winter is a particularly difficult season to collect blood because of the holidays, travel schedules and inclement weather, which may arguably prevent people from donating.
Although the difficulties to reach a blood donation center increase, the need for blood donations does not decrease. Roughly every two seconds, someone in America requires blood. Those statistics do not include any natural disasters, which skyrocket the need for blood.
Giving blood is relatively simple. Any interested donor must be 17 years of age or older, weigh above 110 pounds and be in good health. For the most part, medications do not prohibit a person from giving blood, but a person should check before attending.
However, there are some restrictions. If a person has received a tattoo within the past 12 months or is on antibiotics for an infection, among other things, s/he cannot give blood.
Additionally, if a person has traveled outside of the country to a place where malaria is prevalent, s/he should wait 12 months before donating. If a person has lived in a country where malaria is found, s/he should wait three years before donating. If a person has traveled to a country where mad cow disease is found, s/he is not eligible to donate.
The entire process takes about one hour. Upon arriving, the volunteers will provide the donor with information about donating blood and a form about his/her basic medical history to fill out while s/he waits.
Afterwards, a private interview will be conducted to ask personal medical questions, in addition to having blood pressure, temperature, iron levels and pulse checked.
After the interview, the blood will be taken by a trained staff member. It takes approximately seven to 10 minutes while they take a pint of blood. In order to make sure the body adjusts to the loss of blood, refreshments are provided afterwards.
It is vital that a person eats a meal, such as breakfast or lunch, before donating blood in order to prevent a reaction such as fainting. Also be sure to drink lots of fluids and eat an adequate amount of iron-rich foods, such as red meat, poultry and beans. Make sure to wear a shirt where the sleeves can be rolled up above the elbows so that way the volunteers can insert the needle into the arm.
People who pursue meat-free diets should be especially careful because of the lower amounts of iron in their system. It is suggested that they take iron pills in order to compensate for the blood donation.
Blood donors are encouraged to donate as often as they can, but they must wait 56 days between donations.
Another way to give the gift of life is by giving an apheresis donation, where only the components of the blood are taken away, such as plasma, platelets, red cells or white cells. Usually only platelets and plasma are taken away, but it depends on the donor’s blood type and what is needed.
Apheresis donors provide the amount of platelets that are found in five blood donations. The same restrictions for blood donors apply to apheresis donors. However, apheresis donors cannot donate more than 24 times a year.
The entire process – registration, interview, donation and refreshments – takes roughly anywhere from one and a half to two and a half hours. The blood is drawn from the arm, the necessary components are taken away and the rest of the blood is put back into the body.
Even if a person cannot give blood, s/he is still encouraged to help out by volunteering time at a local drive by greeting the donors, offering words of advice and comfort and giving refreshments out afterwards. Or, a person can organize a blood drive.
By giving blood, a person can save up to three lives. For more information, visit www.givelife.org or call 1 800 GIVE LIFE.
Jenn Halligan is a first-year student majoring in English education with a minor in Spanish. She can be reached at JH653435@wcupa.edu.