Since 1970, January has been recognized as National Blood Donor Month and with only five percent of the eligible population giving blood each year the American Red Cross is asking that new donors take the new year as an opportunity to become a donor.
"Start off the new year right, by donating blood to the American Red Cross in honor of National Blood Donor Month," stated a recent ARC press release. "The process only takes an hour of your time and results in lifesaving platelets or pints of blood for those in need."
An explanation given by America's blood centers points out that the entire process usually takes about an hour.
But the blood collection phase only takes about 10 minutes.
According to the centers website at www.americasblood.org, the donation process includes registration, a brief medical screening, blood collection and refreshments.
Locally, blood drives are scheduled for Castleview Hospital by the American Red Cross several times a year and interested parties may contact the ARC concerning the 2009 dates.
The ARC conducts local blood drives somewhere in Utah everyday with the exception of Sundays and holidays.
The mobile blood drives are conducted at shopping malls, grocery store parking lots, schools, churches and anywhere there are enough people to justify the effort.
The drives are conducted in addition to permanent collection centers operating in Layton, Murray, Orem and St. George.
All blood types are needed.
With an increased number traffic accidents happening during the winter, clean backup blood is sparse at this time of the year, according to the ARC.
"Approximately 39,000 units of blood are required in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities for patients with cancer and other diseases, for organ transplant recipients and to help save the lives of accident victims," said CEO of American Red Cross Services in Utah, Julia Wolf. "To avert critical blood shortages this winter, we need citizens across the state to schedule an appointment to donate blood."
For those interested, healthy individuals can donate every 56 days as red blood cells are oxygen carrying cells and can take up to two weeks or longer to fully return to normal. Platelets can be donated up to 24 times per year. Platelet and plasma components are replaced in the body more quickly than red cells. Platelets will return to normal levels within a few hours of donating. Plasma, the watery substance in blood, can take up to a couple of days.
Individuals can begin giving blood at the age of 17, with no upper age limit, according to America's Blood Centers, their information further states that donating blood is 100 percent safe.
"You cannot get HIV or any other infectious disease from donating blood," explains their site.
The blood centers also report that the current United States blood supply is the safest it has ever been, especially since the implementation of nucleic acid amplification testing. Their site explains that NAT testing is a more sensitive gene-based test to screen the blood supply for HIV and hepatitis C. Thirteen tests (11 for infectious disease) are performed on each unit of donated blood.
Interestingly, type O negative blood is known as the universal blood type as it can be given to any other blood type. Eight percent of the U.S. population have O negative blood.
All blood donations taken are processed and available for use between 24 and 48 hours.
Whole blood is processed into components (red cells, platelets and plasma). After processing, the red blood cells can be stored for 42 days. Plasma can be frozen and stored for up to 12 months. Platelets (from whole blood or by apheresis) expire after five days.
The centers report that a three day supply is the optimum blood inventory level. The inventory changes hourly due to unpredictable demands and trauma incidents.
When the supply drops below a three-day level, centers begin alerting local donors to increase the inventory to a safe operating level.
While the two organizations are separate, they work toward the same end by ensuring that national and local populations are adequately stocked with life saving blood supplies.