By: Barbara Schwartz
As we get ready for Spring, we think about a lot of things: Easter, Passover, St. Patrick’s Day, sunshine and open windows! But what about donating blood? March is National Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month. Doesn’t sound very sexy, does it? The Bleeding Disorder Awareness campaign focuses mostly on Hemophilia and Von Willebrand’s Disease. Hemophilia came to the forefront in the 1980’s when Ryan White, an Indiana kid with Hemophilia contracted AIDS from donated blood products. At the time, we didn’t know much about HIV and AIDS and people were afraid to even shake the hand of someone with the virus.
Treatments for Hemophilia and Von Willebrand’s disease have changed over the years, but the need for donated blood has not changed. As a Medical Laboratory Scientist having worked in the blood bank of a level II trauma center, I can tell you many stories of how lives have been saved by blood donors. Trauma victims receive donated blood. Cancer patients receive donated blood. Surgical patients receive donated blood. Occasionally, women receive life-saving donated blood during or after childbirth. Premature and sick babies receive donated blood. In each of these cases, without the generosity of blood donors, these people could have died.
Donors do not get paid to donate blood. Donor centers like the American Red Cross and various local hospitals like Massachusetts General and Children’s’ Hospitals have their own donor centers. These centers are set up to make you comfortable while you donate. On a recent visit to the American Red Cross Donor Center in Weymouth, MA, there were pizzas in the waiting room, private television screens so donors could watch movies, comfy reclining chairs, pillows and blankets. And lots of gratitude.
You can choose whether to donate whole blood, plasma or platelets. If you have group AB blood, your plasma can go to anyone in an emergency and is the only type of plasma newborns are given. If you are group O blood, your red cells are what we grab first in a trauma. If you are groups A or B, it’s also important for you to donate so that we can give type-specific blood to patients and so that we can save that AB and O for immediate, life threatening emergencies. The process is painless. It costs you nothing. And makes you a hero. You cannot get HIV, AIDS or Hepatitis from donating, but you CAN save a life. What better donation than the donation of life?