Health Watch -- Blood Donor Heroes

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Have you saved any lives recently? It's easier than you think to be a real hero.

Just about anyone can be a lifesaver. All you have to do is give blood. But only about 5 percent of Americans take advantage of the opportunity to save lives by donating blood.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say this donated blood is crucial because there is no artificial substitute for blood, and volunteers are the only source of blood that's essential for saving so many lives. Blood is used to treat surgical patients, accident victims and transplant recipients.

Donors are especially needed during peak vacation and holiday periods - like right now. With more people traveling, the number of car accidents often goes up, meaning more people will need blood. But people aren't usually thinking about donating blood when they're getting ready for vacation, so supplies often drop.

What's in it for you? Dr. Ravi Sarode, director of UT Southwestern's Transfusion Medicine and Coagulation Laboratory, says the most important benefit is the satisfaction of knowing that you may have saved as many as three lives from your one donation.

You can generally donate blood every eight weeks and platelets every four weeks. Platelets have a shelf life measured in days, so ongoing platelet donations are especially important. Blood donors must be healthy, over the age of 17 and weigh more than 110 pounds, in addition to meeting other requirements. To donate, contact your local blood supplier, such as the American Red Cross. 


June 2004