Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood for surgery, disease, trauma or illness. But the American Red Cross estimates that only three percent of people donate this life-saving substance. “Summer is the season when blood donations are at their lowest but the use of blood products is highest,” says Dr. J. Rick McEvoy, Chairman of Pathology at Roper St. Francis Healthcare and medical director of Roper Hospital laboratories. Giving blood is a quick, simple and straightforward procedure.
- Blood donation takes about an hour from arrival to departure. Donors are typically able to drive immediately afterward and return promptly to work. Remember to bring your picture ID.
- Upon arriving, donors fill out a health history questionnaire and undergo a short physical then get comfortable in a lounge chair. Complete your screening form online the day of your donation, and save up to 20 minutes!
- The technician inserts a new, sterile, disposable needle into a vein in the arm and fills a collection bag with 500ccs (half a liter) of blood. Our bone marrow replenishes those red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in about one day. Drinking plenty of fluids ensures the water component of blood is also quickly replaced.
- The most common donation is whole blood, which contains red and white blood cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate. This method takes just one needle and a single blood bag. Donors can also give red blood cells, platelets and plasma specifically. The process and eligibility requirements for this differ slightly from whole blood donations.
- “Side effects from blood donation tend to be mild and short-lived,” says Dr. McEvoy. These may include tenderness or bruising on the arm at the needle insertion site and some light-headedness if you aren’t adequately hydrated.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after donating. There’s also no need to fast in advance. “Getting enough fluid and eating a balanced meal before donating are the most important things you can do to help with recovery,” explains the doctor.
Who: Virtually any healthy adult with any blood type can give blood. Donors must be over the age of 17 (16 year olds may donate with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.
When: A person can donate whole blood every eight weeks. “We want to ensure all of the cells have been restored, though it doesn’t generally take that long,” Dr. McEvoy explains. “Also, if a donor has been exposed to an infectious agent like HIV or hepatitis in the interim, enough time will have passed for a test to pick that up.”
Where: Roper St. Francis Healthcare partners with the Blood Connection for donations. Give blood at the local donation center (5870 Core Rd., North Charleston), or find a mobile donation site at donate.thebloodconnection.org.