Donating Blood: Making a Difference Can Be Fast and So Easy

By Laurie Pike


I think everyone will agree that life moves at a fast pace today and finding the time to make a difference to help others can be challenging given the lack of extra time and energy we all experience after long days.  I have found my own way of donating my time and resources to help a life or even save a life and it is so easy and requires very little of my time.  I donate blood with the American Red Cross whenever I am eligible to do so.  The need for blood is great all the time and every contribution is important to maintain a healthy blood supply and help a life.  The sad reality is that only about 10% of the population of our country donates blood.  One blood donation can help save up to three people.  My blood type is O negative, which means that I am a universal donor whose blood can be given to any other blood type.  Although most of the population is O positive, only seven percent of the population is O negative.  O negative blood donations are especially needed because this is the blood used for emergency responders and on the life flight helicopters because it can be given to any other blood type.  Now that I know how important it is to donate and the elevated need for my particular blood type, I feel a responsibility to donate as a Power Red Donor every 112 days.

     Donating blood not only helps others but there are health perks for the individuals who donate blood as well.  When donating blood, the donor participates in a little physical that includes checking of pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, and hemoglobin.  Giving blood can strengthen your heart because people with high iron levels may have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.  Donating can help lower elevated iron levels for a healthier heart.  Donating blood is the easiest way to give to your community and fellow man in one hour.  I know that when I walk away from donating blood that I have done something that I can feel good about and I know that my donation has the potential to save as many as three lives.

The process is simple to navigate and virtually painless.  First you make an appointment to donate by calling 1-800-733-2767 or by going to and typing in your zip code to sign up for a blood drive near you.  Next, you get ready for your donation by hydrating with lots of fluids before donating, maintaining healthy iron levels, and wearing comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be easily rolled up above the elbow.  Bring a list of your medications and your blood donating card or ID if you have never donated before.  Donating blood is safe, easy, and worry free.  You cannot get any infectious diseases by giving blood and you can only donate blood if your health permits and you feel well.  All blood donated is tested for infectious diseases and any abnormal tests are disregarded.  Some people are afraid that they will feel faint or fatigued after donating blood but this is actually uncommon.  If fear of needles is stopping you from donating blood and your nervous system becomes stressed by the thought of needles, there is a technique to combat this called applied muscle tension.  By contracting and relaxing your large muscles such as your thighs and abdominals in 10 second increments you can avoid the dip in your blood pressure and heart rate.  

After donating a pint of blood, staff will place a bandage on your arm and you will sit for fifteen minutes enjoying a drink and a snack to allow your body to adjust to the slight decrease in fluid volume.  After fifteen minutes, you can leave knowing you have helped save lives.  

     The most common type of blood donation is a pint of whole blood.  A healthy person can donate whole blood every fifty-six days.  Another type of blood donation is a Power Red donation.  This type of blood donation is completed with an apheresis machine that collects the red cells but returns most of the plasma and platelets to the donor.  Red cells are the most transfused blood component.  Power Red from blood type O and donors with Rh negative blood types are very important for maintaining the blood supply levels.  Donors need to meet a slightly higher hemoglobin and body height to weight requirements in order to be a Power Red Donor.  A Power Red donation takes about thirty minutes longer than a whole blood donation and allows the donor to give two units of red blood cells.  Donors are eligible to give Power Red donations every 112 days instead of the 56 days for whole blood donations.  Whole blood and Power Red donations can be completed at your local blood drive by appointment or walk in if you qualify.

Another type of donation is Platelet Apheresis where platelets are collected for some cancer treatment, organ transplant, or surgical procedures to prevent massive blood loss.  Platelet Apheresis is only collected at Red Cross Donation Centers.  The last type of donation is called Plasma Apheresis.  Plasma is collected simultaneously with a platelet donation.  This type of donation is only completed at Red Cross Donation Centers.  

There are four major blood types including Group A; Group B; Group AB; and Group O.  In addition to the A and B antigens, a third antigen is called the Rh factor, which can be either present, indicated by positive or absent, indicated by negative.  In general, Rh negative blood is given to Rh negative patients and Rh positive blood is given to Rh positive patients. The universal red cell donor has a type O negative blood type and the universal plasma donor has type AB blood type.  

I encourage everyone to attempt to give blood just once if you are eligible to donate and there are no health conditions preventing you from being a donor.  Just one donation will help alleviate any fears.  Once you help just one life for the better, you can’t help but walk away from donating feeling that you have made a difference.  Someone you know and love may need lifesaving blood sometime in the future or you may need blood someday too.  Donating is so simple to do!