The holidays are a time for giving back. One way you can give back this Christmas season is by donating your blood to the American Red Cross. Whitko Jr/Sr High students joined ARC on November 29th to donate blood in their school's auditorium.
Students could give "power red" blood cells (double red) or they could choose to donate a pint of their blood. When students donate the power reds, they are donating twice the amount of red blood cells. Doing this is actually easier on the human body according to Phlebotomist Matt Eby. Eby shared that while donating a pint can often cause students to feel queasy or faint, donating power red is much more concentrated and less burdonsome on the body. This is because you are giving less blood, overall donating about 360 millileters or approximately 3/4 of a pint.
The nice thing about double red or power red donations, according to Eby, you are also receiving the plasma back into your body and only the red blood cells are being donated. The plasma that goes back into your body is approximately 90% water and those donating also receive 500 ml of saline. In the end, you are more hydrated after the process than when you started.
Usually withing 24 hours, blood has been tested and processed to be shelf ready for distribution. The reason for the quick turn-around time is due to the shelf life of the blood. While red cells have a 42 day life span, it is the platelets that only have a 5 day shelf life, which is more critical to consider. Every donation goes through a process of separating out the red blood cells from the platelets and the plasma. A centrifuge is used to make this happen. Each of those components, whether red blood cells, platelets, or plasma can help a different person.
"The red cells can go to help one person, the platelets will go to help another person, typically a cancer patient. Plasma can help people like burn victims," said Eby.
"When people feel light headed or woozy or even faint after a blood donation, it's because their blood pressure drops. It's like you're letting air out of a tire. The pressure is dropping in your system."
Donating a pint of blood is often followed by the need for orange juice, cookies, or crackers. This is because nothing is going back into the body. Taking blood from the body causes a drop in blood pressure, which is similar to deflating a tire on a car. Ultimately, that drop in blood pressure is the cause of fainting or feeling nautious.
For those planning to visit an American Red Cross donation location, plan to hydrate well before coming into the facility and eat well ahead of and after your donation. "Don't miss any meals," says Eby. The key to recovery is eating well and giving your body the nourishment it requires. Finally, plan to take 24 hours to recooperate before doing anything considered strenuous activity.
To donate or find a blood mobile near you, visit AmericanRedCross.org and enter your zip code.