Blood donation, and the subsequent on-hand supply is something of a luxury here in the United States. Although some donors are paid directly or receive paid time off, the majority of donors receive no compensation (unless you count the juice and t-shirt!). In some third world countries, blood is needed so badly patients must locate friend or family with a similar type to donate.
Blood donation is generally regarded as safe as long as you meet the height and weight requirements, usually around 110 lbs, although donating double cells or anything other than the standard 450ml may require additional height and weight requirements. Most people may donate whole blood every 56 days, and may donate plasma or red cells alone more frequently. There are no risks regarding HIV, Hepatitis or AIDS from donating blood.
If you do decide to donate blood, be sure to tell the technician any medications you may be taking. Although intense screening is done on the blood you donate, you may be on a medication that may preclude you from donating altogether. Be sure to answer all questions honestly regarding any recent tattoos, as well as sexual history and travel history. Remember, due to HIPPA, your information is completely confidential.
After the screening process, a technician will prick your finger and test your hematocrit level, which is the percentage of your blood that contains red blood cells, to determine if you are able to donate. Next the technician will move you to a more comfortable chair, place a tourniquet above your elbow and clean the skin above where they intend to draw blood from. Always make sure the technician wears gloves, regardless of what they say, when they actually insert the needle into your vein. You have no idea what germs they could have come in contact with.
After they are in a good vein they will take off the tourniquet and you will sit back and relax until the donation is complete. Afterwards, they will take out the needle and give you a cotton swab along with a bandage. Be sure to lift your arm above your heart in addition to placing pressure on the puncture site to prevent bruising. Always accept the juice and cookies regardless of how good you currently feel, as they can help to replenish your lost fluids.
If you are healthy enough to do so, please consider signing up to donate blood as soon and as often as you can. Check back next week when we discuss the different types of blood and take a brief look at which types are compatible.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.