It is a known fact that blood donation can go a long way when it comes to saving lives. Blood donation is safe for the blood donor and can even have several positive effects on the health. There is no artificial substitute for blood which is why regular blood donation is vital to many patients suffering from different conditions such as hemophilia, chronic anemia, and thalassemia. Infants, children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly alike may need blood transfusion at some point due to an illness or accident and blood donations can help increase their chances of survival.
A History of Blood Transfusion and Donation
The first successful blood transfusion in humans was achieved in the year 1818 on a patient suffering from postpartum hemorrhage although it was followed by one failure after another due to lack of knowledge and research. It wasn’t until the year 1901 when Karl Landsteiner discovered the first 3 blood groups present in man that it became clear that blood incompatibility was the main reason for blood transfusion failure giving way to blood typing and cross-matching procedures.
In the year 1940, the U.S. government started a national blood collection program and Plasma for Britain, a blood processing program for English war victims, was established under Dr. Charles Drew. The Red Cross began a National Blood Donor Service in the year 1941 with the aim to collect blood for U.S. soldiers which ended in the year 1945 after collecting more than 13,000,000 pints of blood from donors.
The first countrywide blood program especially for civilians was opened by the Red Cross in the year 1948 in Rochester, New York and after a year, there were 1,500 blood banks in hospitals, 46 blood centers in communities, and 31 regional blood centers by the American Red Cross. In the year 1972, Red Cross appealed to have a national blood policy with standardized practices and purely volunteer donations to put a stop to paid blood donations but this wasn’t put in effect by the federal government until two years later.
Blood Donation Facts
- About 5% of people who are eligible to donate blood actually take the time to undergo blood donation. About 32,000 units of blood are used up in the United States and the only source of blood is from volunteer donors.
- It only takes an hour to donate blood. This already includes answering the medical questionnaire, checking of the donor’s vital signs, and the actual blood donation process which takes about ten minutes.
- Blood components have a shelf life. Red blood cells can only last for 42 days if refrigerated while platelets can only last for a maximum of 5 days.
- About 7.5% of the blood volume of adults is extracted during blood donation. The body produces more new cells at a faster rate after blood donation and red blood cells can be replaced within three to four days while white blood cells are replaced within three weeks.
- People with high blood pressure can qualify for blood donation as long as the blood pressure is below 180/100 mmHg at the time of donation. Taking medications is also not a cause for automatic disqualification from donating blood. Donors taking antibiotics will be deferred from donating until 24 hours after the last dose has been taken while individuals who are unsure of the medications taken will be deferred for 28 days.
Blood Donation Benefits:
One of the seen benefits of blood donation is better blood health. Research has shown that donating blood can decrease iron levels in the blood. High levels of iron in the blood is said to be linked with an increased risk for developing heart disease due to the development of free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause changes in the cell and can lead to cellular dysfunction and cellular death. Post menopausal women as well as men have higher incidences of heart disease compared to women of child-bearing age who menstruate and lose iron levels monthly.
Another benefit of donating blood is the donor gets to have a regular health screening. Before a donor can donate blood, he or she will have to provide a health history and a medical professional will take the vital signs such as the blood pressure and pulse rate. Hemoglobin levels in the blood will also be checked to ensure that it is within normal range. The donor’s blood will also be screened for infectious diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV. The screening process for blood donors ensures that the recipient will come to no harm after the transfusion and can also benefit the donor by making him or her aware of any possible health concerns.
Human blood is valuable and there is no substitute for it. Donating blood regularly can help save thousands of lives each year and can also be good for the health. One hour is all it takes, 3 to 4 times in a year, to save a life.