January is National Blood Donor Month

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By The Staff

A real challenge and a lifesaving opportunity in our midst.

Approximately every two seconds someone in America needs blood. Blood is needed every day for patients with blood disorders, those being treated for burns or undergoing chemotherapy, and premature babies, just to name a few. The need is constant.  

However, just 38 percent of the United States population is eligible to give blood and just a fraction of those eligible – 8 percent – actually donate. What’s more, the average donor gives blood less than two times a year despite being eligible to donate whole blood six times per year.

As we recognize and celebrate National Blood Donor Month this January, it’s clear that we also need to recognize that at a time when the need for blood is increasing, many people are unable to donate blood and of those who do donate, most do not give regularly.

One may only need to look to the increasing rate of organ transplants in the United States to see that medical advancements are helping to save and improve lives, and many of these advanced procedures require the use of blood products. The percentage of Americans living with a transplanted organ nearly doubled from 1997-2006 to 163,631 according to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. A single organ transplant patient can require up to 20 red cell, 50 platelet and 20 plasma units.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reports that there are more than 895,000 Americans living with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma in the United States. Furthermore, they report that every four minutes another child or adult learns they have blood cancer. A single cancer patient can require up to 20 red cell units and 50 platelet units during the course of their treatment.

There is no substitute for human blood. The people needing blood products are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, neighbors, co-workers and people we may never meet. But they need our help every two seconds.

To learn more about donating blood through the American Red Cross and to schedule a blood or platelet donation appoitnment, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or go online to givebloodgivelife.org. The Red Cross holds blood drives every day in schools, churches, synagogues and businesses.

In about an hour, you can donate a pint of blood that has the potential to help save up to three patients’ lives.

Donating blood is safe and easy, and your body begins to replenish your donated blood almost immediately.

The need is constant and the opportunity to help save patients’ lives is right now.

Please give blood.

Yenshen Hsueh, M.D. is CEO of River Valley Blood Services Region in Louisville, Ky.