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Donating blood is one of the easiest ways to help cancer patients. It’s an ongoing need as red blood cells can only be stored for 42 days and platelets for 5 days.
The first recorded blood transfusion was in 1492, when the Pope (Pope Innocent VIII) was transfused. In 1901, the first human blood types (A,B and O) were documents by Austrian physician, Karl Landsteiner. The fourth blood type, AB was documented in 1902 by Decatsrello and Sturli.
From 1995-1999 the U.S. government put into place regulations to increase the safety of donated blood including testing to identify genetic viruses such as HIV and HCV.
Break down of Blood Types in The United States
- O positive 38%
- O negative 7%
- A positive 34%
- A negative 6%
- B positive 9%
- B negative 2%
- AB positive 3%
- AB negative 1%
Source,The American Red Cross, 2007.
The Universal Donor Theory?
Per the Mayo Clinic: “There is no universal blood donor type. Donated blood is routinely classified by type as A, B, AB or O, and as Rh positive or Rh negative. In the past, people with Type O/Rh negative blood were considered universal blood donors. This implied that anyone, regardless of blood type, could receive Type O/Rh negative blood without risking a transfusion reaction.” However now it is understood that even this type of donor could cause reactions.
What is an Rh factor?
It’s a protein substance in red blood cells that can cause a reaction. These factors are inherited and you receive one from each parent, either Rh- or Rh +. Most people are Rh+. Incompatibility problems occur when an Rh- mother has an Rh+ positive baby as their can be a blood reaction. For more information on this topic check Kids Health for Parents.
The Donation Process:
Individuals can donate blood every eight weeks.
Guidelines per the American Red Cross:
“To give blood for transfusion to another person, you must be healthy, be at least 17 years old or 16 years old if allowed by state law, weigh at least 110 pounds, and not have donated blood in the last 8 weeks (56 days) or a donation of double red cells in the last 16 weeks (112 days). “Healthy” means that you feel well and can perform normal activities. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, “healthy” also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control.”
For more specific restrictions see the American Red Cross site.
Blood donating is considered a safe process. Bags and needles are used once and then disposed of. The FDA regulates all blood banks.
Do you have concerns about the process. Wondering what to expect? The American Red Cross provides a presentation to answer all your questions about donating and giving the gift of life.
Donated Whole Blood:
Donated whole blood is divided into the components of red blood cells, plasma and platelets. On any day 34,000 units of red blood cells are needed in the United States, and only 5% of those eligible actually donate. Those five percent make up 12.6 million donated units per year.
Now how about some trivia? 56 Facts about Blood and Blood Donations.