As the use of air is vital to all human organisms, so is the use of blood. The flow of blood represents the essence and vitality of human life. As blood helps to provide life for all humans, the importance of donating blood can not be emphasized enough.
According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States is in need of blood every 2 seconds. As a result, more than 44,000 blood donations are required daily.
The Importance of Donating Blood
The donation of blood is extremely important and should be considered by all. As a surplus of blood is always in demand, blood donors are constantly needed. Due to the uncertainty of life, good health is not promised to any individual. As most accidents are unforeseen, the need for the use of emergency blood is unpredictable. As such, a surplus of blood could potentially save the lives of those who find themselves in life-threatening situations.
The Need for Donated Blood
A blood transfusion is the process in which emergency blood is delivered to individuals in need. This process can be useful or even vital to the injured or ill patient. Although there are various reasons an individual may require a blood donation, two primary reasons include trauma and some forms of cancer.
Individuals involved in traumatic events may need the use of emergency blood. A prime example would be an auto accident in which one or more individuals sustain severe injuries. In such an incident, a substantial amount of blood may be lost. Individuals in such situations usually require an estimate of 100 pints of blood. To give a general idea concerning the measurement of 1 pint, it is equivalent to 2 cups. According to the American Red Cross, emergency blood in the United States is needed every 2 seconds. With this startling statistic, donated blood is always in great demand and needed for emergency surgery procedures.
Patients with certain forms of cancer such as lymphoma or leukemia also require the use of emergency blood. As lymphoma is a form of cancer which affects the immune system, leukemia is a form of cancer which affects blood and bones. As such, an individual who has either form of cancer will experience a decreased level of white blood cells. In such instances, these individuals will require several blood transfusions in order to replace the blood cells lost. Although patients with lymphoma or leukemia require the use of donated blood, patients with other forms of cancer may also find the need of donated blood.
The Function of Blood
Blood, like other body tissue, performs a vital role in the lives of human organisms. Other body tissue and all organs are dependent upon the flow of blood. Blood is a liquid tissue composed of microscopic substances such as blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. Although many people are not familiar with the components or function of blood, a few terms may be known. Blood has many functions; some of which is to transport and distribute oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, while collecting and eliminating carbon dioxide and other metabolic waste products. The function of blood is important in keeping the body’s tissue, organs and organ systems functioning properly.
The Procedure of Withdrawing Blood
Donating blood can be a beautiful experience, as it helps to give the gift of life. The procedure for drawing blood is known as venipuncture. Venipuncture procedures are performed by skilled, licensed phlebotomy technicians. These technicians are thoroughly trained in detecting the appropriate vein necessary to obtain a continuous flow of blood throughout the blood collection process.
The procedure for drawing blood is a simple four-step process beginning with patient registration and medical history. These steps are followed by a brief physical exam, the actual collection process and the provision of refreshments. The entire process takes approximately 10 minutes. During this procedure, donors will be advised to sit in a reclining chair to help alleviate dizziness during the blood collection process. The area of injection will be sterilized once a tourniquet is tightly placed on the upper arm and a vein of interest is identified. Once blood is withdrawn, the injected area will be cleaned prior to the use of a gauze and bandage. Donors will be advised to keep their forearm in an upright position.
Requirements for Blood Donation
Although the practice of donating blood may vary across the country, the procedure noted is common practice within the USA. According to the American Red Cross, healthy donors are eligible to donate blood. Accordingly, healthy donors are individuals who are free of all infectious diseases. An individual’s eligibility is determined by the results of his or her physical examination and various blood tests.
According to the American Red Cross, a healthy donor is eligible to donate blood beginning at the age of 17. Accordingly, blood can be donated in whole or in part. If a donor wishes to donate 1 pint of red blood cells, it can only be done every 56 days. This gap in time is required in order to allow a donor’s red blood cell count to regain its normal level. This is an appropriate measure, as this time is needed for the production of new red blood cells. If an individual wishes to donate platelets, it is possible to do so every 7 days, as the production rate is shorter than that of red blood cells. Restrictions are placed on the quantity of blood donated and a set time frame to do so, in order to ensure the safety of all donors.
Blood Donors Wanted
Since the supply and demand of blood are inversely related, donors of all blood types are urged to provide blood. Individuals with O negative blood, however, are strongly urged to donate blood, as these individuals are considered to be universal donors. Such donors are defined as those who can supply blood to individuals of any blood type. This blood type is always in demand, as it is needed in emergency situations prior to obtaining a victim’s blood type. In a situation where an immediate blood transfusion is needed, it is not in the best interest of the patient or hospital to spend time determining a victim’s blood type. Therefore, the use of blood from a universal donor would be applicable. According to the American Red Cross, only 7 percent of individuals within the population of the United States possess O negative blood.
Tips for Blood Donors
To ensure the safety and well-being of all blood donors, the American Red Cross recommends the following tips:
Prior to Donating Blood
- Eat a proper meal.
- Meals Should not include caffeine and foods high in iron.
- Drink approximately 16 ounces of water to remain well-hydrated.
- Wear a shirt with loose or short sleeves.
- Travel with two forms of identification. Make sure at least one form includes a photo and current address.
- During the Blood Collection Process
- Inform the technician of which arm is preferable to use for blood collection.
- Remain relaxed, as this will allow easy blood withdrawal with less pain.
Post Blood Donation
- Consume all snacks provided prior to leaving the lab.
- Inform the phlebotomy technician if there should be any feelings of illness.
- For the following 24 to 48 hours, stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of beverages.
- If bleeding should occur after donation, it is advisable to apply pressure to the site of injection for 3 to 5 minutes. This should be done while lifting the forearm above the head.
- If pain should persist, an acetaminophen can be taken. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen, as these can assist with the process of thinning blood.
- A cold compress can be used to retard bleeding under the skin and help to eliminate bruising.
Safety Concerns and Donated Blood
Concerns of donating blood are unwarranted, as the process of donating blood is an extremely safe procedure. The venipuncture process is safe for the donor, recipient and phlebotomy technician. Due to extensive phlebotomy courses taken by students in this field of study, each graduate learns the skills necessary to provide safe, professional medical care. Individuals who graduate with an associate’s degree in the study of phlebotomy learn skills such as sterilization techniques in addition to the proper use of phlebotomy equipment. Safety is the utmost concern of all phlebotomists.
The process of donating blood can be a beautiful process, as it can help to save many lives. Blood is a precious gift and can not be substituted. As life has many uncertainties, donated blood is always in demand, however, it is always in short supply. All individuals are urged to help give the gift of life. The gift of blood from someone today can help save many lives tomorrow.