Submitted by Jessica A. Boggs

Roane General Hospital will sponsor a blood drive Tuesday, February 16th at the Heritage Park Community Building in Spencer from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Come out and see if you are lucky enough to be eligible to donate and save not one, but up to 3 lives!

January is National Blood Donation Month but as I am going through my clinical rotations I realize that every hospital has the same problem: a shortage in blood supply. Hospitals in our region are in emergency need for blood especially O negative and B negative. Why is blood in such demand? I hope this article will explain.

There are 4 basic blood groups: O, A, B, and AB with a total of eight distinct blood types: O positive, O negative, A positive, A negative, B positive, B negative, AB positive and AB negative. Approximately 45% of the world population has O type blood. O Positive is the most common blood type while AB negative is the rarest of all eight blood types. Hospitals are in desperate need for O type blood, especially O negative because O negative is used in any life saving situation where blood is needed quickly and there is not enough time to find the type of that patient's blood. Think of O type blood as having nothing in it. So no matter what the patient's type truly is, O type blood is safe to give and can save the patients life.

In a hospital laboratory, it takes approximately 35-40 minutes to learn someone's blood type. So if a patient is in a trauma situation such as a car accident, it could take close to an hour to find out the true blood type and during that time cost the person his or her life. The only thing a doctor could give safely without knowing the patients blood type is O type blood A, B, and AB are useful too because with planned surgeries and needed blood transfusions it is always best to give the patient their own type. In this case the testing can be done before hand.

The normal amount you donate at one time is 1 pint and the average patient needs about 3 pints. The hospital laboratory can only keep so many bags of blood in stock. This could be increased or decreased by the size of the hospital and the number that the American Red Cross receives in donations. Blood also expires quickly. It usually lasts 21 days from the date it was collected and up to 45 days with additives. The 21-45 days include the time it takes to process and deliver to area hospitals. The fact is if they don't have enough, they can't give enough.

When donated blood is "processed" that means it's separated into three components: whole blood (red blood cells), plasma , and platelets. This is why it is advertised that a single blood donation can save up to three lives. The plasma from an AB type can be given to any type and therefore is universal. Platelets are used to form a clot and can be used in individuals with bleeding conditions.

There are many reasons why people do not donate. According to the American Red Cross, only 38% of the population is eligible to donate, but of that 38% only 5-10% actually donate. Some people may be discouraged from donating because they have been temporarily deferred due to low iron or cold and flu symptoms. That doesn't mean you are forever ineligible to give blood. Iron (hemoglobin) can vary daily and you are only non-eligible for 24 hours. Traveling and certain medications can be reason for temporary deferrals, all of which are lifted after a specific time. The three main requirements for donation is that you are at least 17 years old; you pass the hemoglobin (iron) test done by a finger stick and that you must weigh more than 110 lbs. The process only lasts about 15 minutes and is sterile and safe.

I hope you see the importance in donating blood.

Jessica Boggs is a medical technology student at WVU

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