Donate blood this holiday season

During the holidays, Americans are busy picking the perfect present, gathering with family and friends, and ringing in the New Year. Unfortunately, during this busy time of year, blood donations decrease dramatically, yet the need for blood remains constant. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

"When people travel to visit family and friends, it increases the chance for traffic accidents and the potential need for blood transfusions," said Emily E. Volk, MD, FCAP, a pathologist and medical director of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Baptist Health System in San Antonio, Texas. "In fact, a single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood."

Pathologists are board-certified physicians who use laboratory medicine to identify and diagnose disease. Some pathologists manage blood banks and ensure the safety of the nation's blood supply.

Of the estimated 38% of the U.S. population who is eligible to donate, less than 10% actually do each year. Yet, donating blood is a safe process. A sterile needle is used only once for each donor and then discarded.

Eligible donors must be:
• Healthy
• Weigh at least 110 pounds
• 17 years of age or older

Not only can blood donation help save a life, but a single unit of whole blood donated by one person may be divided into parts such as red blood cells, plasma and platelets, and then used to help several people. Whole blood can be donated every eight weeks (56 days), and takes only about 20-30 minutes. Other blood components, such as platelets or plasma, may be donated more frequently.

"As a pathologist, I know that donating blood is a safe and simple procedure that takes so little time, yet gives so much," said Dr. Volk. "Consider donating blood this holiday season. It could save someone's life."

Source: College of American Pathologists

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