After the holidays we often go into major donation mode. January is a great time to tackle long-overdue projects like cleaning out the basement and drawers. All the extra sweaters and blankets we always find are definitely needed at our city's shelters.
It's also a great time to donate blood. The winter months are traditionally hard for blood donation centers. It is not uncommon for supplies to reach a critical low due to factors such as the holidays, travel schedules, inclement weather and illness, so the American Red Cross has designated January National Blood Donor Month to try to shore up the supply.
Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent actually do each year. From these donations, blood centers have to fill the needs of cancer patients – some of whom need transfusions daily while receiving chemotherapy; surgery patients; people with anemia, liver problems, hemophilia, or other diseases; accident victims; those who have been in a disaster or other emergency situation and anyone else who might need blood. Experts estimate this means someone in the U.S. every two seconds of every day.
Donating blood is a relatively easy process for the donor. The actual donation takes only about 10 minutes (although wait and intake times may vary and most centers recommend a rest period prior to leaving, so plan on 60-90 minutes to be safe), and the pain is comparable to getting a routine shot: a quick pinch, and then it's over. Afterward, your plasma is replenished within about 24 hours, but red blood cells need about four to six weeks to be completely replaced (which is why the Red Cross requires at least eight weeks between donations).
The best part is you are saving lives. In fact, donated blood contains four separate, vital blood products: red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate. Since typically, two or three of these are produced from a pint of donated whole blood, each donation can help save up to three lives.
If you are considering donating blood, the Red Cross website has lots more excellent information about the need, the process and where to find a blood drive. If you are interested in other topics that improve the health and well-being of our aging population, please visit www.caregiverstress.com or contact us!
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