By Rachel Golias
Every two seconds, someone in America needs a blood transfusion.
Humans need blood to survive, but until one has cut himself or herself, gotten into an accident or is diagnosed with a serious illness, he or she may not think about blood — its need or purpose. The American Red Cross Blood Services states that 38 percent of the nation is eligible to help supply blood for the sick and injured, but only 8 percent of Americans actually donate.
While blood is always in demand, the need often increases after disasters or during bouts of bad weather. The Red Cross reported Feb. 3 nearly 23,000 donations were canceled nationwide in January alone, due to bad weather conditions.
For students, the question of whether or not to donate often comes back to time. Furthermore, some students see the possibility of earning easy money by selling their plasma instead of donating blood.
To protect the blood supply, the Food and Drug Administration does not allow any product given by a paid donor to be used in transfusions. Purchased plasma is most commonly used to create medicines and vaccines or for medical research.
In West Tennessee, Lifeline Blood Services provides more than 28,000 units of blood to 19 hospitals in the Jackson area. All blood donated to Lifeline stays in the local area, while blood donated to the Red Cross is often shipped across the nation to fulfill needs.
The most common form of donated blood is whole blood. The donation process, which includes a mini-physical and recovery time, takes about 45 minutes and produces a pint of blood.
“The average male adult has about 12 pints of blood and the average female adult has 9 pints,” said Linda Wood, community service coordinator for Lifeline. “Your body replaces the blood volume within 48 hours. The red cells take eight weeks to be replaced, which is why you can only donate every eight weeks.”
Another type of donation, known as platelet apheresis, pulls out only the platelets and a small amount of plasma from the blood. During the two-hour process, blood is taken from one arm, run through a separating machine and then returned through the opposite arm. High doses of platelets are needed by patients undergoing chemotherapy and organ transplants.
By donating a single product from the blood stream, donors are able to give more of the highly sought after platelets as well as continue to give monthly. While the process takes more time, donors may relax and watch a movie or listen to music.
Once the blood or platelets have been collected, they are screened for disease and separated into the needed products before being sent to patients.
“One unit of blood might save three lives if we use the red cells, platelets and plasma that make up whole blood,” Wood said.
For the majority of Americans who are unable to donate blood due to medical conditions, disease or travel, there are still ways to support the efforts of blood donors. They can organize and volunteer at blood drives or support the organizations that collect blood.
By sharing a little of the blood he or she already has, one can save a life.