Give the Gift of Life: Why You Should Donate Blood Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January is National Blood Donor Month and according to the American Red Cross, it’s the month that presents the most challenges in recruiting people to give blood.

“The beginning of January can be a struggle because people are coming back from winter vacations and readjusting to their workloads and schedules,” said Children’s National Health System’s Emmett Gourdine, manager of the Edward J. Miller, Sr. Blood Donor Center.

Why Donate?
Without your blood donations, our patients could not have life-saving surgeries, be nursed back to health from cancer, or function on a daily basis. In fact, some children with certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, need one to 10 units of blood per month, and babies undergoing heart surgery need blood that is no more than five days old.

“We provide highly-specialized care for kids and they require blood products that serve as their lifeline,” Gourdine said.

With the help of our blood donors, the Blood Donor Center collects about 2,800 whole blood donations each year, which covers about 60 percent of the blood needed to treat our patients. As the number of patients we treat continues to increase, so does our need for more blood, especially types O and B, and platelet donations.

Types of Blood Donations
The Blood Donor Center collects two types of blood donations:

  • Whole blood is the most common type of donation. Typically, donors give about one pint of whole blood, which can be used for as many as four or five children, depending on the size of the patients. This type of donation can take about 35 minutes to an hour and is good for 42 days.

  • Plateletsare collected through an apheresis machine that separates platelets and some plasma and returns the red cells and most of the plasma back to the donor. This type of donation can take about one and-a-half to two hours. Platelet donations are only good for five days.
Additionally, Gourdine explained that the Blood Donor Center’s Transfusion Buddy Program provides phenotypically matched blood for patients who require frequent blood transfusions, such as those with sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Matching these patients with donors of the same phenotype will minimize their chances of making red blood cell antibodies. These antibodies make it difficult to find compatible blood for future transfusions. The program currently needs donors, especially African-Americans.

Additionally, family members and friends can donate blood products for a specific patient at Children’s National through our directed donation program.

Who is Eligible to Donate?
You may be eligible to donate blood at our Blood Donor Center if you:
  • Are healthy and drug-free
  • At least 17 years old
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Symptom-free of a cold or flu for three days
  • Have no history of infectious disease including hepatitis, AIDS or HIV
  • Have controlled and stable blood sugar (diabetes) and high blood pressure
  • Have not visited a malaria endemic country in the past 12 months
  • Have not had surgery with an overnight stay in the past six months
  • Have not vaginally delivered a baby in the past six weeks or had a Cesarean section within the past six months

If you still have questions about whether you are eligible to donate blood, read our Donor Eligibility Guidelines or contact the Blood Donor Center.

Donate to Save Lives
You can schedule an appointment to donate whole blood or platelets at our Blood Donor Center, online or by calling 202-476-KIDS (5437).

The Blood Donor Center bloodmobile is looking for new locations to visit! If you have a spouse, friend, or relative who works in a busy office and could host a blood drive for our children, contact the Blood Center.

In the comments below, tell us why you choose to donate blood.

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