Give Blood

January is National Blood Donor Month so I’m sharing some facts and figures regarding blood donation in our country.

Did you know…?

  • The average number of whole blood and red blood cell units collected in the U.S. each year: 13.6 million
  • The average number of blood donors in the U.S. each year: 6.8 million
  • Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, less than 10% of that eligible population actually do each year.
  • Blood cannot be manufactured – it can only come from donors.
  • Type O negative blood (red cells) is in the highest demand due to the fact that it can be transfused to patients of all blood types. 
  • Type AB positive plasma can be transfused to patients of all other blood types. 
  • 1 pint of blood can save 3 lives.
  • Every 2 seconds, someone in the United States is in need of blood. 
  • Red blood cells can be stored for up to 42 days.

But enough about the facts, let’s talk about the nitty gritty of giving blood. 

I am going to be honest, before last week I had never given blood before. I’d gone in for the occasional blood draw for labs at the gynecologist or at my Primary Care Physician, but never for a blood donation. I was scared. I was afraid I might faint. I was afraid it might hurt. I was afraid of a lot of things.

However, the phlebotomist who drew my blood was really kind and after finding out that it was my first time donating, she walked me through what she was doing step-by-step. She did however induce a bit more pain on me because she drew from my Basilic vein (medial aspect of forearm, see anatomy figures below), but because of the way she positioned my arm on the armrest, my arm had gone numb causing me to lose circulation therefore leading to no draw. The best location for blood draws is the Median Cubital vein, because it’s superficial and drains both the Cephalic and Basilic veins. There are a couple variations within the venous drainage system of the forearm, therefore knowing your anatomy beforehand can actually help the phlebotomist drawing your blood. If you are a variant and don’t have a Median Cubital vein or have one but it’s slightly laterally located, this could expedite your donation process. All that to say, know your anatomy and you may just impress the socks off your phlebotomist. Also, sorry not sorry for this anatomy lesson. I’m a PA student.

Photo credit: Google images

Unfortunately, I left in some pain, but I also left feeling extremely gratified that I had given blood. I had given life to someone in need. The sight even the thought of blood can often make people squeamish and scared, but in reality it’s a beautiful metaphor of redemption because of Christ’s sacrifice. On the cross, blood was shed for you and me to give hope, mercy, and life eternal. By His blood, we are free from sin and death. By His blood, we are new creations sanctified by himself. Without Christ, I would be walking aimlessly throughout this life seeking after the next greatest pleasure. But in Christ, I find purpose, I find guidance, I find strength, I find release from all my imperfections, I find wholeness. Now my blood may not be as powerful and all-encompassing as Christ’s, but I can rest assured that my donation will benefit someone in need. It will bring new life and hope to someone in peril. That temporary pain is worth it. 

Whether you are scared, intimidated, squeamish, or just downright uninterested, let me implore you to at least go through the interview process of donating blood. You may be pleasantly surprised by your experience!

Where can you donate blood?

The American Red Cross is a great place to start! They have blood drives and blood donation centers all across the country making it easy and accessible to donate throughout the United States all year round. Check out this link to find a drive or donation center in your area and make an appointment to change lives. 

How long does it take to donate?

Depending on if you are a first-time or veteran donor, it should take no longer than an hour from start to finish. However that time can vary depending on how busy the phlebotomists are at your donation site. Blood draw itself only takes 8-10 minutes, but the screening process and set up process takes up the bulk of your time. 

How often can you donate blood?

Every 8 weeks or 56 days, you are eligible to donate blood. This allows your body time ample time to  replenish the blood that’s been lost. 

Can they turn you away from donating blood?

Yes, they can and they will depending upon your past medical history. 

If you are below the age of 17, weigh less than 110lbs, are on antibiotics for treatment of an infection, recently were vaccinated, have been diagnosed with CJD, have been feeling unwell (cough, cold, flu-like symptoms), have AIDS or a recent positive HIV test, have history of IV drug use, have recently traveled outside the country, or have been treated for STI’s, you may be ineligible to donate. These are just a few of the criteria, but prior to donating, they will ask you a series of questions to determine your eligibility. 

How can you prepare for giving blood?

  • Eat iron rich foods, such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, iron-fortified cereals and raisins the day before or day-of
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Drink an extra 16 oz. of water before the donation
  • Eat a healthy meal before your donation. Avoid fatty foods, like hamburgers, fries or ice cream before donating
  • Bring your donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of ID 
  • Wear clothing with sleeves that can be raised above the elbow
  • Let the person taking your blood know if you have a preferred arm and show them any good veins that have been used successfully in the past to draw blood
  • Relax
Now what are you waiting for? Get to donating!

Cover photo credit: NPR // Statistics and information regarding blood donation taken from American Red Cross’s webpage

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