National Blood Donor Month

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marianne E. Lane
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Have you ever given any thought to donating blood? This is a good time to start; January is National Blood Donor Month.

On average close to 11 million volunteers donate each year. Only about 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate even with that many donors, there is still a shortage because about 44,000 units are used daily in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities. The uses range from disease treatments and transplants, to trauma and accident victims.

"The primary benefit to giving blood is that one blood donation can save up to three peoples' lives. One unit of whole blood can be separated into three life saving components packed red blood cells, fresh frozen plasma, and platelets," said Lieutenant Jason Jacobsen, 97th Medical Group laboratory services chief. "Yet, only around five percent of the eligible public choose to give blood. Moreover, many healthy military members are deferred from donating due to overseas assignments."

There are certain requirements that need to be met before an individual can actually donate.

"For 2011, we held six drives and there were 227 totals donations. The wing surpassed the set goal of 189 which is based on past donation performances," said Jacobsen.

To be eligible to donate blood, a person must be in good health and must be at least 16 years of age (or in accordance with applicable state law). Minimum weight requirements may vary among facilities, but generally, donors must weigh at least 110 pounds. Most blood banks have no upper age limit. All donors must pass a short physical and health history examination given prior to donation. Individuals may be temporarily ineligible to donate due to mild illnesses, unregulated hypertension, diabetes and anemia.

"There are individual health benefits to donating and of course there are the life saving benefits for a recipient. Regular donating helps the regulation of iron which can decrease the risk of heart disease and stimulates the production of new red blood cells," said Jacobsen. "Also, there is the basic health screening each donor receives prior to donating which includes blood pressure, temperature, hemoglobin, heart rate, and a battery of disease testing."

After the blood has been donated, it is separated into red blood cells, platelets, and plasma and then it is all tested.

"Whole blood donors can safely donate every 56 days or eight weeks. Some donors that meet specific criteria can donate double red blood cells (aphaeresis) every 112 days (16 weeks) said Jacobsen."

After all the testing is complete, the donation can then be transfused to different individuals or used for other purposes. Anyone can receive blood type "O" red blood cells, and type "AB" individuals can receive red blood cells of any "ABO" type. Therefore, people with type "O" blood are known as universal donors, and those with type "AB" blood are known as "universal recipients." In addition, individuals of all types can receive type AB plasma.

"Donating blood is not only an insurmountable contribution to those who depend on it to maintain a full and healthy life, but also presents significant health and morale benefits to our donors," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Coomer, 97th Air Mobility Wing NCO in charge of airman ministries. "The chapel staff is wholeheartedly grateful to assist the Oklahoma Blood Institute in this life-saving endeavor."

The next blood drive will be held at the base chapel Jan. 6, 2012, with the Oklahoma Blood Institute. For more information call Jacobsen at 481-5004 or the base chapel at 481-7485.