• December 11, 2019

CATES: Please donate blood this holiday season - Odessa American: Health

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CATES: Please donate blood this holiday season

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Posted: Monday, December 2, 2019 12:30 am

I’ve been thinking a great deal about Holiday traditions this week, from planning Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, to putting up Christmas lights and decorations. Generally, those traditions are something I enjoy immensely. However, over the last few days, I have been reminded of another Holiday tradition I am not fond of, blood shortages during the holidays.

There are two parts to the Holiday blood shortage problem—supply and demand. Traditionally, blood banks see fewer donors during the holiday season, people are travelling, and busy with Holiday goings-on and forget that the blood need does not take a Holiday. Unfortunately, it’s not just the Holiday season that affects the supply of blood in the US, blood is always in short supply—the holidays just tend to be worse to the point of critical need in some years. 38% of the population is eligible to give blood, but only 5% do so in a given year. A pint of donated blood lasts a maximum of 42 days, which means we can’t keep blood on hand and “save it for a rainy day” as the old saying goes. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to give blood. Our local blood bank, Vitalant, has offices in Midland, and donors can donate without an appointment during business hours most days. Their address, contact information and hours are available on their website at tinyurl.com/tbcad29. In addition, Vitalant hosts blood drives across the community in conjunction with local businesses and organizations. You can find more information about hosting a blood drive in your business or organization at tinyurl.com/yx6jebu5 Basic criteria for donating blood is you have to be at least 17 and weigh at least 110 pounds. You have to be in overall good health. In addition, the blood bank will ask additional questions about medications you take, your risk for having blood-borne diseases, like hepatitis and HIV, and they will check your level of blood cells, all to make sure it’s safe for you to donate. The average person can give whole blood every 8 weeks, other blood components have different time frames. The blood bank can help you decide the donation time frame that is right for you. The best part of being part of the supply is your one donation can potentially save the lives of 3 people. Donations can make a big difference for someone else.

The demand for blood is huge. Every 2 seconds someone in the US needs blood. That works out to a need of about 38,000 units of blood every day. A single catastrophic car accident can result in someone needing as many as 100 units of blood—and car accidents go up during the holidays. People are travelling, driving in less than ideal road conditions with winter weather, and unfortunately, there are far too many that are driving under the influence after that holiday party.

The biggest demand for blood is Type O negative. That is because that blood type can be given safely to any of the 8 different blood types. When we have someone in the emergency department who needs blood to quite literally save their life, and we don’t have enough time to figure out what their specific blood type is, we give them O negative. On more than one occasion, I have run to the lab of a hospital, while someone in the lab is running to meet me with units of O negative. When someone is quite literally bleeding to death from trauma or another condition, every second counts. That is why hospitals rely so heavily on O negative and its ability to be given safely to anyone. Unfortunately, the supply of O negative blood is always a problem because only 7% of the US population is O negative. With the big demand, and low supply, it means O negative blood is always precious.

If you can donate, please consider donating this Holiday season, and improve our blood supply. When you donate, consider continuing to donate on a regular basis. A blood donation is literally the gift of life to another person—and what better Holiday gift could you possibly give to another human being—a chance at life.

On the demand side, please be safe this Holiday season, and please, please, never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. I think all of us in health care would be thrilled to give less blood this holiday season because the demand has gone down.

Odessa, TX

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