Begging for Blood: The Importance of Being a Blood Donor
On KTLA 5 Morning News immediately following the mass shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month, Mayor Carolyn Goodman didn’t ask for prayers or condolences; instead, she urged her listeners to donate their blood if they were healthy and able.
“What we ask for is blood — that’s the main thing right now,” Goodman said. “[and] if our people want to do something, and they are healthy, then please donate blood.”
This really spoke volumes to the kind of tragedy the city faced and how crucial it is to donate blood. Hundreds of people rushed to donate at their local blood banks and donor centers in hopes of helping the victims. In this time of need, the UC Irvine Blood Donor Center hopes to educate and recruit its community and clarify any misconceptions about donating blood.
Donated blood is most commonly used for helping babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, patients going through cancer treatment, and patients in critical condition from accidents such as the Las Vegas Route 91 shooting. The American Red Cross stated that a single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.
Although this tragedy did not involve a car crash, patients from the scene require similar forms of treatment and need an appropriate source of blood. Blood has to be transfused within 42 days, so regular donations are crucial for hospitals and emergency rooms to maintain a steady amount of transferable blood. Along with accident victims are babies in the NICU. These premature babies often need on-going transfusions to replace blood lost by hemorrhage or to aid with severe anemia. Their future health outcomes are determined by access to blood while cancer patients depend on platelet donations. Platelets are small cells that help the blood clot, and anyone undergoing chemotherapy is in high demand of these cells to halt forms of life-threatening bleeding. Though these different types of patients vary dramatically in their illnesses and treatments, they are all common in their need for someone’s generous donation.
Many people believe they are ineligible to donate due to various misconceptions. The most common belief is that if someone has ever had a tattoo they are deferred. That is simply not true. Donors just need to wait 12 months after a tattoo before they can donate. Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, less than 10 percent of that eligible population actually does each year. The American Red Cross’s statistic is not surprising when you take into account the misinformation received by the public.
For example, healthy citizens that are a little older tend to believe that their age keeps them from donating. While there is a minimum age of 17 there is no upper limit on the age at which one can donate. As long as you are healthy you are eligible. The Food and Drug Administration tends to update their regulations for donating blood as science improves and techniques are perfected, so it is important to keep up to date on potential restrictions and confirm with a health professional that you are healthy and able donate.
With the UC Irvine Blood Donor Center right at the heart of campus, it has never been easier to donate. Students, professors, and any other affiliates can drop in anytime that is convenient for them and make a life-saving donation. The Irvine campus community is composed of many healthy and eligible donors and has tremendously increased the UC Irvine Medical Center’s supply of usable blood. The American Red Cross estimates that 90 percent of the population will need some form of blood before the age of 70. If donating to help others isn’t reason enough, donate to help your future self. Blood is something that cannot be manufactured and one single donation could be enough to save a life. Donating blood is the only way patients get the help they need and you could be their hero.
The devastating accident in Las Vegas shows that anything could happen and blood donations will always be necessary. The UCI Campus Blood Donor Center aims to further support its community and urges staff and students to find out if they are eligible and donate when possible. Blood donor centers across the country can do the same, especially those on school campuses. Having access to such large and diverse communities makes promoting and educating regularly much easier. With proper information and a few minutes of time, saving a life is just that easy.
Brenna McNulty is a fourth year Public Health Science Major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.