January is National Blood Donor Month! It’s a great time to bring awareness to the importance of giving blood. It’s also a time that donation is at its lowest due to the holidays, traveling, illness, and winter weather. Donating blood is about supporting life and helping to ensure a steady blood supply for patients in need. It’s very important to do so because even with the technological advances in this day and time, we still are not able make or create blood. There is no substitution. Blood is constantly being used in new and improved surgical procedures and unfortunately can only be stored and saved for a short period of time.
Blood contains 3 components that can help people in different ways and up to 3 people at a time. Blood includes red blood cell concentrates that can be kept for up to 42 days. Plasma is the second component that can be stored for up to a year. Platelets are the third component, have a very limited life, and can only be kept for 5 days. There are also 4 types of blood; A, B, AB, and O. A person’s blood type is distinguished by tiny markers known as antigens which cover the blood cell surface. Type A blood has A antigens, Type B blood has B antigens, Type AB blood has A and B antigens, and Type O blood has neither A or B antigens. In addition to A and B antigens, there is also a Rh antigen. Individuals who have this antigen are Rh positive and those without it are Rh negative. The combination of blood type A, B, AB, or O in addition to Rh would make someone Type A positive, Type B positive, and so forth. Without the Rh antigen, their blood would be Type A negative, Type B negative, and so forth. Blood types must be matched between the donor and recipient to be considered a safe transfusion.
Blood type O- can receive type O-
Type O+ can receive O+ or O-
Type A- can receive A- or O-
Type A+ can receive A+, A-, O+, or O-
B- can receive B- or O-
B+ can receive B+, B-, O+, O-
AB- can receive AB-, A-, B-, O-
AB+ can receive AB+, AB-, A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-
Type O- donors are known as universal donors and can give blood to anyone. This type of blood is in high need because it is the one used in emergency situations when the recipient blood type is unknown. Type O+ is the most common blood type with Type A being the second most common. Type AB is the scarcest type of blood, but these donors are known as universal plasma donors because their plasma can be given to anyone and is the one used in emergency situations when blood type is unknown. Blood is in constant need in our hospitals, so therefore, donation is in constant need. The need for blood is usually not planned so it is important that blood is adequately stored at all times. Rarely does someone expect to receive a blood transfusion and if there were none available at the time of need, the consequences could be fatal. It is needed in surgeries, for cancer patients, for battlefield injuries, and many others with related blood disorders or diseases. Transfusing blood is an essential part of healthcare today and it is up to us to provide and meet the needs. Blood can only be given a couple times a year and needs to be spaced months apart and only after consultation with your primary care physician. Before the donation, you will also receive a mini health screen that can provide information about your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and hemoglobin level.
If volunteering and giving back is on your New Year’s Resolution list, then simply giving blood is a perfect way to do so. It only takes about an hour’s worth of your time and you can leave knowing you might just have saved a life or even 3! Don’t forget to prepare by eating well and staying hydrated! You’ll also need your driver’s license and list of medications. Be sure and check with your physician prior to donating to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.