Chris Bauer MD
January 2021 is National Blood Donor Awareness Month. Each year the American Red Cross designates this month in recognition of the vital role that blood donation plays in saving lives across America. Blood and its associated blood products are often needed for patients who are hospitalized with chronic disease, undergoing cancer treatment, recovering from surgery or who are hospitalized for a myriad of other conditions. According to the National Red Cross, 4.5 million people in the United States would die every year without a blood transfusion. Due to the increased number of hospitalizations this year especially from COVID -19 it is even more essential that people donate blood. Type O -negative blood is the most requested blood type from blood banks so people with this blood type are especially asked to donate.
Since the time of the 1600s, blood first began to get transfused in its earliest known people. In 1628, the English physician William Harvey began studying the concept of blood circulation and demonstrated through his experimentation the path of human blood through the heart. Dr. James Blundell, an Obstetrician, has been credited with performing the first blood transfusion in 1825 in London, when he transfused a patient in order to save her from dying from bleeding post delivery. Eventually, in 1940 the United States created a national blood bank, and the American Red Cross becomes one of its most fervent supporters.
The process of blood donation has been developed so that it is extremely user friendly. Initially people are asked about their medical history before they give blood in order to determine their eligibility. After this, patients have their vitals taken at the donation center along with a short physical exam. Then, a small amount of blood is taken to determine if the donor has enough blood to donate. The donor is then placed in a comfortable chair and the donation takes place. During the donation process, donors are closely monitored to ensure a safe experience for all. All donor information is kept confidential and only a very small percentage of people experience unwanted side effects after a blood donation.
After people donate their blood, the blood is carefully screened and rigorously tested for any infectious diseases and for different viral particles in the blood called antigens. Once this process has been completed and the correct blood type has been verified then the different components of the blood are then harvested. From each unit of blood that is donated the different components of blood can be collected. The four different components of blood are: red blood cells, plasma, platelets and granulocytes. Even if a sample that is donated is low in one of the blood components it may be higher in another component that could potentially be collected.
In a year of unprecedented medical need, the donation of blood is truly a lifesaving endeavor. For more information or to arrange for you to donate blood you can call the American Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767 or visit www.redcrossblood.org . Each donation can save up to three lives. Be the change you want to see in the world. Please donate today!