Giving Blood, Saving Lives

I’ve been giving blood for around 17 years now. The first time I was about 19 and went to a blood drive held at my best friend’s church. However, what I remember the most about that night was not donating blood, but the Velveeta cheese dip that my friend’s mom made.

Ask anybody that knows me well, they’ll tell you that I am often more motivated to do something if there is a promise of food at the end of the task.  And part of the blood donation process is to sit in the recovery area for a bit afterwards and eat snacks.

In all seriousness, I do know the importance of giving blood, especially now during COVID-19. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood for surgeries, cancer treatments, chronic illness, and traumatic injuries, according to the American Red Cross. And now, blood is needed to help those to recover from the coronavirus.

This year I’ve donated whole blood four times. That means I could have saved up to 12 lives. I didn’t have the discipline to become a doctor or a nurse, but knowing that I have the power to save lives just by taking a little time to lay on a bed to give blood and eat snacks, well that I can certainly do.

When COVID-19 hit, blood drives were canceled but donation centers were still open. I’ve been scheduling my appointments at The Blood Connection’s Spartanburg center in the North Grove Medical Park off from Hwy 9.

While The Blood Connection is probably the more prominent organization for blood donations in our area, the American Red Cross based in Greenville also offers blood donation services. Both the American Red Cross and The Blood Connection have an urgent need for blood, platelets and plasma.

If you’re nervous about giving blood in the midst of the pandemic, the FDA says that it can be done safely and within social distancing guidelines.

“You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.,” said the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams back in an interview in March.

In May, The Blood Connection started testing for COVID-19 antibodies at no cost to the donor. The antibodies test uses a blood sample to detect antibodies which may be indicative of your body’s immune response. It is NOT a diagnostic test. If you do happen to test positive for the antibodies, a donation of convalescent plasma could help someone who is currently battling the coronavirus. (I’ve had two antibodies tests so far and both were negative.)

Giving Blood
Writer Nicole Collins gives blood at the Blood Connection’s Spartanburg Donor site.

If I plan it right, I should be able to give blood two more times this year. I anticipate giving blood as long as I am able (and it’s not just to raid the snack bins). It is my gift to the community.

Blood Donation Breakdown

If you’re new to donating blood or just don’t know that much about it, here’s a quick run down of the types of blood donations. To be eligible to give blood, you must be 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health and feeling well.

The Blood Connection has 12 donation centers across the Carolinas. You can visit thebloodconnection.org to find the location closest to you and to make an appointment.

blood types

WHOLE BLOOD

Whole blood is the most common and traditional type of donation. This is a pint of blood that contains red and white blood cells, platelets and plasma.

  • Key Use: trauma and surgery
  • Donate every 56 days, for a max of six times per year
  • Donation time is 15 minutes
  • Preferred Blood Types: O+, A-, B-

PLATELETS

In a platelet donation, an apheresis machine collects the platelets and the other blood components are given back to the donor. Platelet transfusions are a critical part of a cancer patient’s care, used to strengthen their bodies against the harsh effects of chemotherapy, according to The Blood Connection.

  • Key Use: Cancer treatments, organ transplants and surgery
  • Donate every seven days but the max is 24 times per year
  • Donation time is 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Preferred Blood Types: A+, B+, AB-, AB+

PLASMA

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that transports water and nutrients to the body’s tissue. Like platelets, a machine collects the plasma and returns the other blood components.

  • Key Use: Burn patients, shock and bleeding disorders
  • Donate every 28 days, for a max of 12 times per year
  • Donation time is 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Preferred Blood Types: AB-, AB+

AUTOMATED RED CELLS

Automated red cells carry oxygen throughout the body. The apheresis machine collects the red cells and gives back the other blood components.

  • Key Use: Trauma, surgery, anemia, blood loss and blood disorders
  • Donate every 112 days, for a max of three times per year
  • Donation times is 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Preferred Blood Types: O+, O-, A-, B-
Source: The Blood Connection

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