January is National Blood Donor Month and with the severe weather that has plagued much of the East Coast this month, the American Red Cross is encouraging all eligible persons to donate blood.
To be eligible to donate, people have to be age 17 or older (16-year-olds can donate with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in generally good health. Donors age 18 and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Why do we need to have so much blood on hand?
The Red Cross needs about 14,000 blood and platelet donations each day for patients—including accident and burn victims, those having heart surgery and organ transplants, and those being treated for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease—at hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Once collected it takes nearly 48 hours before a donation is available for transfusion.
About one in seven people entering a hospital will need blood. And in an emergency that blood supply must be available immediately. During times of severe weather, those supplies run low because blood drives are often cancelled and/or donors are unable to make it in to donate. Since January 1, severe weather has caused at least 300 blood drives in 20 states to be cancelled, resulting in more than 9,500 donations uncollected.
However, not all areas of the country face weather emergencies at the same time. The Red Cross has the ability to move blood products where and when they are needed most, so donors in unaffected areas are always encouraged to make and keep blood and platelet donation appointments.
Why are platelet donors in such high demand?
Transplant and trauma patients, as well as patients undergoing open-heart surgery may require platelet transfusions. However, the majority of platelets are used by cancer patients. Platelets only have a shelf life of five days, with two days needed for testing.
Who discovered that there are different blood types?
Dr. Karl Landsteiner first identified the major human blood groups; A, B, and O in 1901.
How does my body replace the blood I donated?
Healthy bone marrow makes a constant supply of red cells, plasma and platelets.
Why do I have to wait 56 days to donate again?
Although you replace the fluid in hours, it may take as long as 56 days for your body to replenish the red blood cells.