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Blood Donations

Have you saved somebody’s life lately? Did you know that you can help three people who struggle to survive by giving an hour of your day? I wasn’t aware of how many people I can help until there was a blood drive at my high school. The blood drive was run by the ARUP Blood Services and I learned a ton about donating blood. Before you donate you can talk to a representative and learn more about donating blood.

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I learned that the blood donated can be stored for about 28 days until it goes bad. The phlebotomist told me blood donations are given to several patients who need transfusions to live.

If there are many people donating it can be a long process, but it’s worth the wait until the end because they will provide you with a variety of snacks, treats and drinks. If you are a healthy candidate, you can donate one pint of your blood that can help three different people. A healthy donor can donate blood every 56 days. According the American Red Cross “If you began donating blood at age 17 and donated every 56 days until you reached 76, you would have donated 48 gallons of blood, potentially helping save more than 1,000 lives! ” Think about it.

The complex blood inside our bodies can be used for a number of people’s lives; you can help save them. You can be a hero to those in need by donating your blood. We talk about donating blood, but people typically don’t know the fundamentals of blood. It’s important to understand blood and what it does. So, what is blood? It’s the red liquid that oozes out when you scrape your arm or leg. That’s what we see and that’s what people say. But if you take the time to study or learn about blood, you’ll see that there are four different components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma.

Each component has a different function. The red blood cells function is to carry blood and oxygen to other tissues and organs in the body. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a substance that is iron rich, which binds to the oxygen in your lungs and then carried by arteries. White blood cells main purpose is to defend your body against foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Platelets help blood vessels when there is a wound. The platelets will coagulate, or clot, around the wound and plug up the vessel so that blood does not leak out the injury.

Plasma is straw-yellow colored liquid in the blood and is composed of a variety of substances. Our plasma contains nutrients, such vitamins, proteins, amino acids, salts, sugar and more which are essential to the functioning of all bodily cells (Avraham; Litin). Avraham states “plasma ensures the body of proper balance of these nutrient,” (46). All these components of blood are necessary for the proper functioning of our bodies. We need each part of our blood to work properly in order to live a healthy lifestyle.

Although all blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma, the blood of all people is not the same. Blood types were unknown until 1901, when Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian physician, discovered the presence of blood groups. “Landsteiner found three groups — A, B and O — that contained one (A or B) or neither (O) of two antigens on the surface of red blood cells. Importantly, he found that people receiving mismatched transfusions made destructive antibodies against the blood-borne antigens that weren’t theirs” (Shugart).

Blood types and groups follow into four categories: A; B; AB and O. Each group has different antigens and antibodies. Antigens are a substance that stimulates the antibody. Antibodies are a response cell that will either attack an antigen or let it pass. People who have blood type A have A antigens and antibodies that attack B antigens, and those who have type B have B antigens and have antibodies that attack A antigens. Those who are type AB have both antigens and type O has no antigens. Every group is divided into two groups, positive and negative.

The factor that depends on another antigen called the rhesus. Those who have the rhesus antigen are positive and those who don’t are negative (Litin, 1060-1062). It’s vital for people to receive blood from the same blood type or the consequences may be fatal. So let’s say you have B antigens in your blood and have no rhesus antigens, you would be considered B-. Transfusing a patient with blood, that is not the same type as that person, can be very dangerous because he or she may have antibodies that will attack and reject the foreign antigens that have entered the body.

In the process, they may destroy the red blood cells in the recipient’s blood (Avraham, 52-54). When blood is donated, several tests are run and those testing the blood are able to figure out what blood type you are. Knowing what blood group you belong in is important because the necessity for blood can vary in different places of the world. According to ARUP, this table represents which blood types are able to receive blood from different groups. Blood transfusions date back to the 17th century. It was first practiced by two dogs. Then in 1667, French physician Jean Baptist Denis made the jump to humans.

“He transfused 9 ounces of sheep’s blood into a teenage boy by attaching the animal’s carotid artery to the boy’s arm. The boy survived the ordeal, prompting Denis to perform the procedure on several other patients until, eventually, one died. The death triggered a backlash against blood transfusion, leading several countries to ban it,” (Shugart). Then 150 years later, the first transfusion between humans was recorded. James Blundell, a physiologist, took several different blood donors and mixed them together and injected the mixture into a patient suffering from internal bleeding.

The patient felt well, but passed away three days later. “The cause of the delayed fatal reaction wouldn’t be understood until the next century,” (Shugart). Blood transfusing would remain a hit or miss until the next century when Landsteiner discovered the blood types. During the last century scientists and biotech companies have been studying ways to create artificial blood. A substance called polyheme was used as a substitute to carry oxygen cells. “Unfortunately, trauma patients receiving the PolyHeme infusions turned out to be slightly more likely to die of their injuries compared with patients infused with real blood (13.2 percent versus 10 percent)” (Shugart).

After discovering that artificial blood did not help patients whatsoever, many companies quit researching. Not only does blood need oxygen carrying cells, it also requires other tasks. Blood contains platelets and clotting factors that help stop internal bleeding; white blood cells to fight infection and electrolytes needed for organ and muscle function. Because blood is very complex, creating artificial blood will take lots of studying and research. “When it comes to blood, so far nature knows best,” (Shugart). There are many ways to donate blood.

Many companies are present in every state such as the American Red Cross. Or there are private blood banks such as the ARUP: Blood Services. Because the need for blood donations is always in demand, many companies are flexible with times and scheduling appointments. The process is very simple. First things that happen when you check in are that they verify your information. Then they give you a book for you to review that have information regarding diseases and medications that can alter you blood. While you reading the book you are given a questionnaire that you must answer to help verify your eligibility to donate blood.

When the questionnaire is all done and you’ve read the book, the nurse in charge will call you back and take you into a room and run a few vital signs. That person will check your blood pressure, temperature, pulse and will check your red blood count. In order for them to check your red blood count is that they prick you finger with a small needle and obtain a small sample in a blood in a little tube and run it through a centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the red blood cells from the plasma and then the nurse will measure it.

Before the nurse leaves the room, she gives you two stickers, a red and green one. The nurse will describe that the red and green one have different purposes and that you will have to choose one confidentially. The red sticker indicates that you do not want your blood to be used. Maybe you have lied about something, felt pressured to donate blood when you didn’t want too or have done something recently that may affect your blood and you didn’t want anybody to know. The green sticker represents that you feel like your blood is safe and want your blood to be used.

Choosing the sticker is done confidentially and afterwards you step out of the room to find the nurse. As soon as you find the nurse, he or she will sit you down comfortably on their chairs and you will be ready to donate your blood. In the United States, an estimated 37 percent of Americans are eligible to donate. However, only ten percent actually donate. What about the other 27 percent of people? Well ask yourself, “Have I ever thought about donating blood? ” The two most common reasons for not donating blood are that people have never given it the thought, or they are terrified of needles (American Red Cross).

I’ve encountered many friends and family members who do not want to donate blood because they have a fear of needles. They say they don’t want to get poked because it’s painful or the might faint by the sight of a needle inside their arm. Some people think that they are not eligible when they really are. Those who have gotten a piercing or tattoo are not eligible to donate for a year because of safety precaution. Precautions such as risk with coming into contact with HIV, or AIDs prevent eligibility from the use on non-sterile needles (Moisse).

Because donating blood is only done by volunteers, people may feel like they’re not obligated to donate. It’s true; people don’t have to donate blood. Donating blood may not seem like a big deal, but it helps saves lives every day. The need for blood is always in high demand because accidents happen, and you can’t always expect them. According to the American Red Cross, a single car accident victim may require as many as 100 pints of blood. Donating blood makes a difference. Ask Brennah Payne, she’s a 14 year old teenager who was involved in a car accident at age seven.

The incident broke her spine in half, fractured her face, ruptured her bowels, suffered major internal bleeding, and went through nine major surgeries, and 22 other medical procedures throughout the next six months (Shugart). Brennah Payne stated “I remember tubes coming into me, but I don’t really remember what was in them, now I know that the things that were in them kept me alive… There were so many people helping me, and I didn’t really know why. I just knew that I felt love from them, and it made me happy because without them I wouldn’t be here today,” (Shugart).

Today, Brennah is a healthy teenager and a competitive runner on her schools cross country team. “Although she has recovered from the accident that occurred half a lifetime ago, she has never forgotten how the generosity of blood donors saved her life,” (Shugart). Blood donations have changes Brennah’s life. You can be that person to make an impact on somebody’s life. Although patients, who receive your blood, may not know who you are, they will appreciate the effort giving to donating blood. If you’ve ever grown up wanting to be a hero to others in need, here’s your chance.