Health Q&A - Simple steps to give blood, gift of life

December 23, 2002|BY Christine L. Moats

According to the American Red Cross, blood supplies have reached critically low levels with less than one day's supply of several blood types.

Please contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-GIVELIFE (1-800-448-3543) to schedule a blood donation. Help bring blood supplies back above critical levels. You may donate blood as often as once every eight weeks as long as you are healthy and weigh at least 110 pounds.

What can I expect when I give blood?

Donating blood consists of four steps, which take about an hour from start to finish:

Step 1 - Registration at the reception desk.

Step 2 - Recording your health history. A trained professional will check your blood pressure, iron level and temperature, and will ask specific questions about your health to insure that you are eligible to donate.

Step 3 - The actual donation, which takes about 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 4 - A visit to the canteen for refreshments before leaving the blood donation site.


Donors tell us that knowing they have saved up to three lives with each blood donation is their greatest reward for the time they've spent donating blood.

What happens to my donation after I have given blood?

The blood is processed and run through many tests. It is separated into its component parts: red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Red blood cells benefit patients with chronic anemia or acute blood loss. Platelets benefit patients undergoing cancer therapy, recovering from organ and bone marrow transplants, or patients with leukemia or aplastic anemia. Plasma benefits patients with severe liver disease, clotting deficiencies or serious burns.

What tests are done to make sure the blood supply is safe?

Trained technicians perform at least 11 different tests on each sample of blood given. Nationally standardized procedures are followed for blood testing at the nine National Testing Laboratories across the country. Every unit of blood is tested for infectious diseases such as HIV, syphilis, and Hepatitis B and C. They are also tested for unexpected antibodies that might cause a transfusion reaction in some people.


Christine L. Moats is wellness coordinator for Washington County Hospital.

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