The Gift of Love In Vein

by DavalosMcCormack on December 19, 2007

At a time of year when everyone is stressing out over what to give someone for the holidays, there is one gift that won’t cost you a penny, and could save three lives. It’s blood.

Let’s face it, you’ve got lots of it, around ten pints if you are like the rest of us. Most of the time you don’t really need that much, you could easily get by with just nine pints, at least for a few weeks, and that extra pint could mean a world of difference to someone.

Every year around this time the nation’s blood banks put out a call for donors. It’s become as traditional a part of Christmas as the Salvation Army bell-ringers outside department stores – but a lot less annoying. The blood banks don’t do it for fun, they put out that call for a very good reason; many of their regular donors are too busy shopping or traveling to come in and give blood. But while supply drops, demand never does. All those extra people on the road means more accidents, more injuries, more need for blood.

And the problem is even worse in cities like San Francisco. “There is a chronic shortage in the Bay Area,” says Lisa Bloch, Communications Director at Blood Centers of the Pacific. “The Bay Area has some of the most advanced medical care in the country and people from all over California come here for treatment. Because of that there is a tremendous need for blood to support these procedures and treatments.”

There are restrictions on who can give blood. For instance you have to weigh at least 110 pounds (not really a problem for most Americans) and not be at risk for diseases like HIV or hepatitis. Oh, and if you recently decided to get a tattoo of Dick Cheney on your buttock, you won’t be able to donate for a while. But that still leaves around 60 percent of the population who are eligible. Sadly, only around 4 percent actually give.

“The most important reason to become a donor is because the vast majority of us, at some point in our lives, will need blood,” says Bloch. “And there’s no substitute for it. Donated blood is used for new mothers and their babies, cancer patients, people getting organ transplants and victims of trauma”.

One pint of blood can save three lives. After you have donated it the blood is separated into red blood cells which might be used to save a gunshot or car accident victim. Your platelets might go to another hospital to help a transplant patient. And your plasma could go to a third hospital to help a burn victim.

It doesn’t take very long, only around 45 minutes from the time you walk in the door to the time you leave. The blood bank folks will give you some juice or coffee and a cookie afterwards (in England they give you beer, but then they give you beer for everything there!).

And who knows what you’ll find while you’re there. At a blood bank in Phoenix one donor proposed to his girlfriend while they were giving blood. A true love story that wasn’t in vein.

For more information go to Blood Centers of the Pacific

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