No matter your blood type, your blood donation can help save a life.
Blood transports oxygen and nutrients to the lungs and tissues, forms clots to prevent excess blood loss, carries cells and antibodies that fight infection, transports waste products to the kidneys and liver for filtering, and regulates body temperature. It is composed of four main building blocks.
- PLASMA is the main component of the blood, made up of water, sugar, fat, protein and salts. Its primary job is transporting blood cells throughout the body along with other things like antibodies, hormones, nutrients and more.
- RED BLOOD CELLS are the most plentiful cell in the blood and carry hemoglobin, which gives blood its red color. Hemoglobin helps carry oxygen from the lungs into the rest of the body, returning carbon dioxide to the lungs to be exhaled.
- WHITE BLOOD CELLS fight off infection. There are two types: neutrophils, which respond immediately to infection, and lymphocytes, which regulate the function of other immune cells, attack infected cells and tumors and make antibodies.
- PLATELETS are small fragments of cells that help with blood clotting.
Who needs blood donations?
When people think of who benefits from blood donations, typically they think of situations such as a car accident. Obviously, someone who has been severely injured in a car accident is likely to receive blood, but do you know who else needs donated blood?
- CANCER PATIENTS: Certain cancers and cancer treatments prevent patients from producing their own platelets, a component of the blood.
- TRAUMA AND SURGERY PATIENTS: Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, so blood is frequently given to trauma and surgery patients, including women with pregnancy- and childbirth-associated bleeding.
- SICKLE CELL PATIENTS: People with sickle cell disease require frequent blood transfusions that must be closely matched to the donor’s blood type, usually from the same racial and ethnic group. Most people in the United States who have sickle cell disease are of African ancestry, but it’s also common in people of Hispanic ancestry.
- BURN PATIENTS: Plasma, another component of blood, is important to burn patients because it helps maintain blood pressure and other vital functions.
- PATIENTS WITH CHRONIC DISEASES: Patients with certain conditions in which the body does not make blood properly, such as hemophilia or anemia, may require frequent transfusions.
Every few seconds somebody is in need of a blood transfusion, making it vital that we have a safe, quality, sufficient supply available at all times. That’s where you, the donor, comes in.
Just your type
Before getting into the donation process, let’s talk about blood types. Some are rarer than others, making them in high demand, but all types are needed for donation.
The four major blood groups are A, B, AB and O; each group breaks down further into subgroups of A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-, AB+ and AB-. The + or - refer to a protein called the Rh factor, which can be present (+) or absent (-). Your blood group and presence or lack of an Rh factor determines your blood type.
Because not all blood types are compatible, it’s important during a transfusion that a person receives the right type of blood. If you accidentally receive the wrong blood type, your body could have a dangerous immune response like blood clumping, which can be fatal.
Typically, if you are in need of blood you will be given the type that matches yours, but sometimes that’s not possible. In that case, the universal red cell donor is O-, which means O- blood can be given safely to anyone regardless of blood type. That puts O- in high demand since it’s used for emergency transfusions and infants with compromised immunity, though O+ is also in high demand because it’s the most common blood type.
How to save a life
So, you’re ready to donate? A single blood donation can save up to three lives! Type “blood donation centers near me” into your preferred internet search engine to find locations where you can donate. The major blood banks in Louisiana are The Blood Center, LifeShare, Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services), Our Lady of the Lake Blood Donor Center and Ochsner Blood Bank. Then, schedule an appointment.
Here’s what you can expect if you’re a first-time donor of whole blood. First, remember to plan ahead: have at least 16 ounces of water and a healthy meal before your appointment, and wear a shirt with sleeves that you can roll up.
When you arrive for your appointment, you’ll get registered — so bring your ID — then go over some basic eligibility requirements and receive information about donating blood. You’ll undergo a short interview about your health history, travel history, prescriptions and medications, as well as checks of your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin level.
Now, it’s time for the draw. You’ll either be seated or lie down, and then an area will be cleaned on your arm and a new, sterile needle will be inserted. It takes about 8 to 10 minutes to complete the blood draw, during which you may be given a ball to squeeze regularly to keep the blood flowing. When a pint of blood has been collected, the needle will be removed and your arm will be bandaged.
With that done, it’s time for a snack and something to drink, which will help replenish the loss of your body’s fluid following the blood donation. After a brief rest of 10 to 15 minutes, you can continue on with your day. Staff at the blood donation center may provide after-donation tips as well, such as drinking plenty of water and eating foods rich in iron. You must wait at least eight weeks between donations of whole blood.
Blood donation is a short, simple process that saves lives — and hey, there’s free snacks! Are you ready to be a lifesaver?