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January is Blood Donor Month!

Nurses Article   (538 Views | 12 Replies | 1,335 Words)

SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

11 Followers; 52 Articles; 16,939 Profile Views; 330 Posts

Are You a Blood Donor?

Why is January National Blood Donor Month? According to the American Red Cross, blood donations drop off during and right after the winter holidays. 13,000 donations are needed daily to keep the blood supply ready and available for the more than 2600 hospitals, clinics and cancer centers across the United States. 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, but less than 10% do so. This article discusses restrictions on blood donors, how blood is taken and processed and the history of blood donation.

Blood Donation Poll

  1. 1. What types of blood products have you donated?

    • Whole blood
      6
    • Power Red
      0
    • Plasma
      0
    • Platelets
      0
    • I don't donate blood/unable to donate
      2
  2. 2. If you donate, how often do you do so?

    • As often as possible
      1
    • Several times a year
      3
    • Once a year
      0
    • Just that one time
      0
    • I've given a few times during my life
      2
    • If someone really needs it/in an emergency or disaster
      1
    • I can't donate
      1
  3. 3. Have you ever received blood products?

    • Yes
      0
    • No
      8
  4. 4. If you don't donate blood, why not?

    • Not eligible
      4
    • Too busy
      1
    • Feeling weak/debilitated after donating (symptoms of anemia)
      1
    • Risks involved with venipuncture
      0
    • Fear of needles
      0
    • Other
      2

8 members have participated

January is Blood Donor Month!

I hope you'll read this article and it will inspire you to go out and donate blood. I know writing it inspired me. I'm signed up to donate tomorrow (even though I usually feel pretty gosh-darned horrible afterward). Please comment on your experiences with blood donation - I'd love to hear from you!

Blood donation facts

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. One donation can potentially save up to 3 lives. 
  • 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate blood each year. 
  • 45% of people have type O blood (higher among Hispanics and African Americans) and this is the blood type most often requested. 
  • The average transfusion is approximately 3 units. 

Who can donate blood?

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent where allowed by law – this is in most states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health. There is no maximum age restriction. Whole blood can be donated every 56 days.

A Power Red donation is a way to safely donate two units of blood during one donation session. Your plasma and platelets are returned to you during this donation process. This can be done every 112 days up to 3 times/year. Requirements for Power Red donations are more restrictive.

Common Reasons People Can’t Donate

  • Cold, flu and other illness – if you don’t feel well, reschedule
  • Medications: there are restrictions for some medications like aspirin, some vaccinations, Accutane, Proscar, Avodart or Coumadin. If you have ever used bovine (beef) insulin made from cattle from the United Kingdom since 1980, you are not eligible to donate due to concerns about mad cow disease. Check HERE to find out the requirements for medications.
  • Low iron: iron levels are not checked, but hemoglobin levels are. If your hemoglobin is too low to donate, you may be able to donate in the future. Your hemoglobin must be a minimum of 12.5 g/dL for females and 13 g/dL for males. 
  • Travel outside the U.S.: You may be deferred from donating blood or platelets if you have lived in or traveled to a malaria-risk country in the past three years. There’s no blood test for malaria, so the only way to be sure is to screen travel. If you have Zika virus, you must wait more than 120 days after symptoms resolve to donate. If you have ever had Ebola, you are not eligible to donate. 

The Process

Where to donate? The Red Cross provides about 40% of the blood in the U.S but you can also donate at America's Blood Centers  and Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services). Regional organizations can be found by state HERE.

Download the Blood Donor App so that after your first donation, you can use the digital donor card to scan in at registration. You’ll answer a few questions about your health and medication history, including where you’ve traveled. They will take your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin level. 

For collecting whole blood, they insert a sterile needle for the blood draw and they’ll take several small tubes for testing before hooking you up to the collection bag (for platelets they typically use an apheresis machine connected to both arms). It takes about 8-10 minutes to donate a pint, and afterward, you’ll get a colorful bandage on your arm. Platelet collection can take about 2 hours. You have to sit and snack for 10-15 minutes afterward before leaving as you bask in the glow of knowing you’ve helped save a life.

What happens to my blood?

The donation/test tubes and donor records are labeled and kept on ice. The test tubes go to a lab where they are tested for infectious diseases and blood type. The test results are sent electronically to the blood processing center (this takes about 24 hours).  Meanwhile, the blood goes to the processing center. Whole blood is spun in a centrifuge to separate it into red cells, platelets and plasma. They remove as many of the white cells as possible in a process called leuko-reducing to lower the chances of an allergic reaction to the blood.  If test results are positive, the donation is discarded and you will be notified confidentially. Suitable units are stored: red cells go in refrigerators for up to 42 days, platelets are at room temperature on agitators for up to 5 days, plasma can be frozen for up to one year!

How is donated blood used?

There are multiple reasons a patient might need a transfusion. As an oncology nurse, we typically gave blood to folks suffering from anemia related to chemotherapy. I’ve transfused people who were walking around with a hemoglobin level of 4 after chemo destroyed all their red blood cells. It amazes me what the human body can tolerate. Serious injuries like car crashes, surgeries, childbirth and blood disorders are other reasons for blood transfusions. 

  • Cancer patients tend to need platelets more than anything else. When the count falls below 150,000, the risk for bleeding out increases. I’ve run platelets for patients with platelet values as low as 10,000. For folks with levels that low, they can start bleeding even if not injured. 1.7 million people may be diagnosed with cancer in 2017. Many will need blood during chemotherapy. 
  • Trauma and surgery patients tend to need red cells and AB Elite (a type of plasma that can help stop bleeding). A single car accident victim may need as many as 100 pints of blood. 
  • Sickle cell patients need whole blood, especially from African-American donors since they require multiple transfusions.  O negative blood is desperately needed for these folks. Sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. 
  • Burn patients use AB Elite. AB positive or negative plasma donations can make a huge impact on burn victims survival

What is the history behind blood donation?

  • 1628 - William Harvey discovered the circulation of blood and the first blood transfusion was attempted soon afterward, but transfusion wasn’t successful until 1665 when Richard Lower kept a dog alive by transfusing blood from other dogs. 
  • 1667 - blood was successfully transfused from sheep to humans
  • 1818 - first successful transfusion of human blood to a patient for treating postpartum hemorrhage. 
  • 1901 - human blood types were discovered and cross matching was first done in 1907.
  • 1914 - long term anticoagulants like sodium citrate used to preserve blood
  • 1940 - Rh blood group system discovered, U.S. government establishes a national blood collection program. 
  • 1941 - Red Cross begins National Blood Donor Service to collect blood for the military
  • 1947 - ABO blood typing and syphilis testing performed on each unit of blood
  • 1948 - Red cross begins to collect blood for civilians
  • 1957 - American Association of Blood Banks formed
  • 1961 - Platelets used to reduce hemorrhage in cancer patients
  • 1964 - Plasmapherisis invented for collecting plasma
  • 1971 - Testing for Hep B begins
  • 1978 - FDA requires blood to be labeled as paid or volunteer
  • 1983 - First warning about AIDS, testing begins in 1985

Donate TODAY! 

There is a critical shortage right now, so please consider giving the gift of life.

Schedule an appointment today at Red Cross Blood or 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767)

If you can’t donate, you can always volunteer at a blood drive.

Dr. Kristi Miller, aka Safety Nurse is an Assistant Professor of nursing at USC-Upstate and a Certified Professional in Patient Safety. She is also a mother of four who loves to write so much that she would probably starve if her phone didn’t remind her to take a break. Her work experiences as a hospital nurse make it easy to skip using the bathroom to get in just a few more minutes on the computer. She is obsessed with patient safety. Please read her blog, Safety Rules! on allnurses.com. You can also get free Continuing Education at www.safetyfirstnursing.com. In the guise of Safety Nurse, she is sending a young Haitian woman to nursing school and you can learn more about that adventure: https://www.gofundme.com/rose-goes-to-nursing-school

11 Followers; 52 Articles; 16,939 Profile Views; 330 Posts

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kat7464 has 5+ years experience and specializes in Hospice, home health, LTC.

65 Posts; 2,844 Profile Views

Would love to donate but I didn't see mentioned above the weight requirement. I weight 97 lbs. and am consistently denied. I would gladly allow their harpoon to take my blood but they choose not to. Their loss.

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SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

11 Followers; 52 Articles; 330 Posts; 16,939 Profile Views

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dream'n has 27 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in UR/PA, Hematology/Oncology, Med Surg, Psych.

1,058 Posts; 14,874 Profile Views

I'm ineligible to donate in the US because I lived in England for years during the 1980s. 

You are not eligible to donate if:

From January 1, 1980, through December 31, 1996, you spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 3 months or more, in the United Kingdom (UK), or
From January 1, 1980, to present, you had a blood transfusion in any country(ies) in the (UK) or France. The UK includes any of the countries listed below.

Channel Islands

England

Falkland Islands

Gibraltar

Isle of Man

Northern Ireland

Scotland

Wales

OR

You were a member of the U.S. military, a civilian military employee, or a dependent of a member of the U.S. military who spent a total time of 6 months on or associated with a military base in any of the following areas during the specified time frames

From 1980 through 1990 - Belgium, the Netherlands (Holland), or Germany

From 1980 through 1996 - Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy or Greece.

You spent (visited or lived) a cumulative time of 5 years or more from January 1, 1980, to present, in any combination of country(ies) in Europe, including

in the UK from 1980 through 1996 as listed above

on or associated with military bases as described above, and

in other countries in Europe as listed below:

Albania

Austria

Azores

Belgium

Bosnia/Herzegovina

Bulgaria

Canary Islands

Croatia

Czech Republic

Denmark

Finland

France

French Guiana

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Ireland (Republic of)

Italy

Kosovo

Le Reunion

Liechtenstein

Luxembourg

Macedonia

Martinique

Montenegro

Netherlands (Holland)

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Romania

Serbia

Slovak Republic

Slovenia

Spain

Spanish North African Territories (Penon de Velez De la Gomera, Penon de Alhucemas, Islas Chafarinas, and the cities of Centa and Melilla)

Sweden

Switzerland

Yugoslavia (or the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)

Edited by dream'n

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amoLucia specializes in LTC.

5,270 Posts; 46,253 Profile Views

Very, very interesting piece.

I used to donate regularly. Am now on medications that preclude it.

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K+MgSO4 has 12 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Surgical, quality,management.

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Hey safety nurse, your survey is flawed.  Q 2 requires an answer but as I cannot donate non of the answers apply to me.

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K+MgSO4 has 12 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Surgical, quality,management.

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Fascinating that America pays people for blood. Here in Australia it is all altruistic. 

Can I ask, those scenes in TV shows where a person needs blood and friends and family donate at the hospital that day, is that in anyway true? It is not true for Australia as all our blood donations are coordinated by the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood service which has collection centres in metropolitan areas and regular regional drives.  Nobody can just donate at a hospital. 

 

As I cannot donate (born and raised in the UK) I donate to my health research services.  They call me when they want blood for research projects.  I have donated to breast cancer research, PPH studies for field kit research, TB and others.

I am now staring down the barrel of requiring donations myself as I am being worked up for a sinister reason for my completely depleted iron stores and dropping HB.  

 

Thank you to those that donate, if you are eligible please do donate.  My gut bleeding patients and geriatric orthopeadic patients survive because of the red stuff. 

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SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

11 Followers; 52 Articles; 330 Posts; 16,939 Profile Views

5 hours ago, K+MgSO4 said:

Fascinating that America pays people for blood. Here in Australia it is all altruistic. 

Can I ask, those scenes in TV shows where a person needs blood and friends and family donate at the hospital that day, is that in anyway true? It is not true for Australia as all our blood donations are coordinated by the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood service which has collection centres in metropolitan areas and regular regional drives.  Nobody can just donate at a hospital. 

 

As I cannot donate (born and raised in the UK) I donate to my health research services.  They call me when they want blood for research projects.  I have donated to breast cancer research, PPH studies for field kit research, TB and others.

I am now staring down the barrel of requiring donations myself as I am being worked up for a sinister reason for my completely depleted iron stores and dropping HB.  

 

Thank you to those that donate, if you are eligible please do donate.  My gut bleeding patients and geriatric orthopeadic patients survive because of the red stuff. 

Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your international perspective. I'll answer your questions as best I can:

According the the American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/blood-transfusion-and-donation/donating-blood.html

Here in the US, several companies other than the Red Cross routinely collect blood (see article above) and larger hospitals often have their own blood banks.

"Donating blood for a family member, friend, or other specified patient is called directed donation. This can be done at any blood donation center, but you should call ahead to check requirements and schedule the donation. The donor must meet the same requirements as for regular blood donation, and the donor’s blood must match the blood type of the recipient."

Your blood still has to be tested, so it can take 24 hours before it is ready for transfusion.

Regarding PAID donations:

"Blood from paid donors cannot be used in the United States for transfusion purposes. Plasma is the only component for which donors are sometimes paid, and it’s taken by the apheresis method. Plasma can be treated for safety in ways that blood cells cannot.

Plasma taken from paid donors is generally treated and processed by pharmaceutical companies into drugs. It cannot be used as cryoprecipitate or fresh frozen plasma in patients."

I hope this helps and I'm thinking of you and hoping your work-up reveals something easily treatable.

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SafetyNurse1968 has 20 years experience as a ADN, BSN, MSN, PhD and specializes in Oncology, Home Health, Patient Safety.

11 Followers; 52 Articles; 330 Posts; 16,939 Profile Views

6 hours ago, K+MgSO4 said:

Hey safety nurse, your survey is flawed.  Q 2 requires an answer but as I cannot donate non of the answers apply to me.

THANK YOU! I fixed it. I appreciate your patience.

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Pixie.RN has 12 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

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I also grew up in Europe in the 80s and early 90s, so I am ineligible for donation. Oddly enough, I was NOT ineligible to donate as part of the walking blood bank while deployed to Afghanistan. 

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nursej22 has 30 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in med/surg,CV.

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I used to donate every 2 months; I earned my 8 gallon pin before life got in the way. I now take a medication that prevents donating. 
 

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19 hours ago, K+MgSO4 said:

Fascinating that America pays people for blood. Here in Australia it is all altruistic. 

Never received a penny for my blood here in the US. I donate several times per year.

Many Children's Hospitals also take blood.

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