By Diane Forrest, RN
When I was in college, I knew a guy who had a rare blood type. Every couple of months or so he would go to the Red Cross and get paid for a pint of blood. Then with the money he received he would be able to pay some expenses. Now that he is no longer a starving student, he continues to go to the Red Cross, only now he donates his blood for those in needs.
Enticing people to donate their blood is not an easy task. Several large corporations have blood drives for their employees offering incentives and prizes. The blood mobile can be seen at local festivals or health fairs. They will even go to high schools to encourage the older students to donate. When I was in high school I wanted to donate, mainly to get out of class, but also to help someone who needed it.
If there is a local tragedy, people will flock to the hospitals to donate their blood, and even if they don't have the same blood type, their blood will be stored for future use. The biggest problem faced is storing the blood. Shelf life for plasma can be up to a year, but red blood cells can only be stored for as long as 40 days, and platelets for only 7 days. This makes blood donation a constant need.
There are specific requirements for donating blood. You must be at least 17 years of age, must be afebrile at the time. A medical history is checked, and a screening test is performed to make sure there are no medications or any possible diseases. Pregnant women are differed, and sometimes the elderly to prevent any health risks.
Today is World Blood Donor Day. This is the birthday of Karl Landsteiner, the scientist who discovered the ABO blood group system. As of 2008, the WHO estimated that more than 81 million units of blood were being collected annually. Donating blood is relatively simple and painless. After the questions and blood screening, you simply lie in a chair, a needle is inserted in your arm, and then your blood flows into a bag. It doesn't take very long, depending on how fast your blood flow is. You need to rest for about 15 to 20 minutes and enjoy some snacks so you don't get dizzy or faint.
Why don't you go and donate some blood today, who knows you might even get a free tee shirt or a day off work with pay not to mention the great feeling you will get from saving someone's life.