How To Save a Life In Under 10 Minutes: Donate Blood

by Terry Bryant

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In The Time it Takes to Read This Three Lives May be Saved.As personal injury attorneys, we are confronted with many cases where life is threatened and people are hospitalized. This is no different than for this time of year. Holiday parties are almost a nightly occurrence, and people are out shopping or driving to see relatives. Consequently, area ER rooms remain busy, and statistics show one in every seven people entering a hospital need blood.

As personal injury attorneys, we are confronted with many cases where life is threatened and people are hospitalized. This is no different than for this time of year. Holiday parties are almost a nightly occurrence, and people are out shopping or driving to see relatives. Consequently, area ER rooms remain busy, and statistics show one in every seven people entering a hospital need blood.

This week we are sponsoring our Fall Blood Drive that will help our fellow Houstonians. We have successfully run our Pre-Summer Blood Drive each May for the past several years and decided that there is a significant need this time of year as well.

Sadly, the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Bank sees a dramatic reduction in donations as the holidays approach. In order to service the city of Houston, they need at least 1,000 donations every day of the year. Donors must be unpaid volunteers and this immediately stacks the deck so that only one in 20 will even donate.  Add vacations, parties, and all the extra stresses of the holiday season… People simply do not donate blood. This leads to shortages. This is one of the main reasons why we decided to add a second blood drive.

Because this event is so important to Houston, we wanted to give a few tips and information on blood donations. Regardless if it is your first time donating or you’ve done it hundreds of times, this information will be helpful.

So let’s start with the basics. There are different types of blood donations and each one has its own requirements on age and weight. Whole blood donation is the one that most people associate with ‘giving blood,’ but there is also an automated process that allows donors to give more specific components including double red cells and red cells and plasma. There are different requirements for the more advanced blood donation types. But in a nutshell,  If you are over 16 years of age and weigh over 120 pounds, chances are you are a viable donor.

When arriving, donors will be asked for some basic information and for a photo ID if not a member of the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Bank’s Commit for Life Express program. So, be sure to bring valid identification featuring your picture. Donors are asked a series of private health questions that are kept confidential, and then a small blood drop is taken to verify iron levels.

From there, blood donation commences and will take about 10 minutes of your time.  This 10 minutes can save multiple lives. When finished, donors are provided with a snack and checked out to make sure there are no signs of being dizzy or light-headed, and if all checks out they are free to drive. Donors are however cautioned against exercise or lifting for the rest of the day.

What Happens After Blood is Donated?

After blood is donated, it is put through several different steps to maximize its usage. First, the blood is typed and entered into a database. Next, it is spun in centrifuges into its transfusable components, namely red cells, platelets, and plasma. Each of these components are individually processed into other components that include Leuko-reduced red cells. Plasma is often manufactured into multiple other components including cryoprecipitate. Single donor platelets are also Leuko-reduced and then bacterially tested.

Extensive testing often takes place as the blood is being processed and spun. The blood bank screens for dozens of infectious diseases. The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has stepped up its screening game and is one of four blood centers nationwide that has added the Zika virus to its testing. If at any time the blood donation does not pass the screening tests, the donor is notified.

Once blood passes the tests, it is divided up into transfusable units and stored in ways to maximize its shelf-life. Red cells are refrigerated at 42.8 degrees and can be stored up to 42 days. Platelets on the other hand, are stored at room temperature in agitators, but can only be stored for five days. Plasma has the longest shelf life, lasting for one year as long as it is stored in freezers.

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Bank will service Houston hospitals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But their having enough blood to service the community depends on the commitment of each of their donors.