One out of every three people will need donated blood at some point in their lives. If you or your loved one are a senior, you’re even more likely to have encountered the need for a blood transfusion this year.
The American Red Cross announced a critical blood shortage late last month. They’ve issued an emergency call for donors of all blood types. If you’re in good health and have some free time this weekend, consider donating blood at your nearest donation point.
What is a blood transfusion?
When someone loses a lot of blood, or their body isn’t producing the necessary cells, they’ll need a blood transfusion. This is a simple procedure that transfers donated blood directly into the patient’s bloodstream.
Take a look at these statistics from Community Blood Services:
- An accident victim may need up to 50 units of red blood cells.
- A cancer patient may need up to 8 units of platelets a week.
- An organ transplant recipient may need up to 40 units of red blood cells, 30 units of platelets, and 25 units of plasma.
In the skilled nursing world, our residents often need blood transfusions when they become severely anemic due to red blood cell deficiency.
Who can donate blood?
Age is not a factor in eligibility for blood donation. Here are the basic requirements for whole blood donation:
- Donation frequency: every 56 days
- You must be in good health and feeling well
- You must be at least 16 years old
- You must weigh at least 110 lbs
- You’ve never had heptatitis
If you are elderly and would like to donate blood, okay it with your doctor first. If your doctor says it’s fine, go ahead and donate. There’s a good chance your recipient will be from your own age group.
Why should I donate blood?
Blood is the force of life. By donating blood, you are giving the most precious gift anyone can ever give someone else.
You can even save more than one life with one unit of blood. Many donations are separated into blood components—red blood cells, platelets, and plasma—so one unit can help three individuals.
Donating blood is a simple process that takes about an hour. This is how it looks:
- Find a blood bank near you; there are many different blood collection services in New Jersey, with locations all over the state. You may need to make an appointment in advance, while most pop-up or mobile sites allow walk-ins.
- Complete a pre-donation screening, which involves some questions about your health and lifestyle. All information will remain confidential.
- Undergo a brief health exam to check your pulse, temperature, and blood pressure. A drop of blood from your finger will also be tested for adequate iron levels.
- A professional lab worker will draw one unit of blood from your arm, using a blood donation kit. This will take about ten minutes.
- Rest and eat some snacks until your strength returns and you can leave. After donating, it’s recommended you drink more fluids for the next day or two, avoid physical exertion or heavy lifting for a few hours, and eat well-balanced meals. You should also avoid smoking or drinking alcohol within a few hours of donating.
How can I help without donating blood?
If you can’t donate blood but you still want to help, you can. Volunteering at a blood drive can include assisting donors with registration, and serving refreshments after donation.
New Jersey Blood Services is currently looking for volunteers in New Jersey. Click here for more information.