THE BLOG
10/23/2012 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 23, 2012

Doing This for 10 Minutes Could Save Three Lives

Alamy

Recently, a loved one of mine needed to receive blood. He initially had some reservations and concern, mostly because he didn't expect that he would need it (who does?), and the idea of receiving somebody else's blood into his body was new for him.

My friend's need reminded me that a blood transfusion is a tremendous gift. Someone, somewhere, at some time, had freely given of his or her blood to help those in need, not knowing who it would reach or in what circumstances. What a truly selfless act: offering a part of himself or herself without ever knowing how it would impact the recipient.

There is something very profound about the blood of the giver mixing with the blood of the recipient. Such a truly intimate and life-saving gift.

As I was discussing this with my friend, I experienced a renewed appreciation for something I admittedly take for granted: that amazing red fluid that courses through our bodies, carrying oxygen, nutrients and disease-fighting cells. Yet we rarely see blood unless we cut ourselves and need a Band-Aid... or, in this case, a medical situation that requires a transfusion.

As I was waiting for my friend to receive his transfusion, I had time to get pretty philosophical about blood, hence the inspiration for the blog. I'll spare you some of the really out there esoteric stuff. But I've come to the realization that the gift of blood is so symbolic of the concept of our oneness. And at a time when divisions and disagreements threaten to take us farther from each other, we have a great need to reflect on that oneness.

We are currently in full swing of the election season, and emotions are running high. Republicans vs. Democrats. References to the 1 percent, the 99 percent, the 47 percent. Binders. Invisible politicians. Lots of material for Saturday Night Live.

The interesting thing about donating blood and receiving blood transfusions is that the donor and the recipient remain anonymous. Imagine that. A Republican could be receiving a life-saving transfusion from a Democrat, or vice versa. Blood donations transcend gender, political affiliation, celebrity, status, and religion.

It's interesting. People may be giving or receiving blood from those they might not even want to shake hands with. And my renewed appreciation is sending me to the nearest blood donation center.

Blood banks typically run low during the winter holiday season. Since the holidays are just around the corner, and you might be searching for a way to give back, please consider donating blood. Often we have the best of intentions but not a lot of time to volunteer. The cool thing about donating blood is that is takes very little time and the payoff is big: You could be saving a life. (Plus, juice and cookies are a perk.)

For your nearest blood donation bank, please contact the Red Cross.

The kindness of a stranger

To see the real difference a blood transfusion can make, we need only look to the stories of people like Brian Boyle, the young man who suffered grave injuries in a car accident in 2004 but was able to walk again after 36 blood transfusions. Three years after his accident, Boyle completed the Hawaii Ironman triathlon, and he now works as a Red Cross spokesman for blood donation.

Whoever you are who so kindly donated your blood to my friend, thank you. He is doing really well, and that is because of you.

Here are some facts about blood donation that really got me thinking about the tremendous potential we all have to give and impact the lives of others:

Facts About Blood Needs (Source: American Red Cross Blood Facts and Statistics)

• Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

• More than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day.

• A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S. (2006).

• The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.

• A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

Facts About Donors (Source: American Red Cross Blood Facts and Statistics)

• The number one reason donors say they give blood is because they "want to help others."

• One donation can help save the lives of up to three people.

• If you began donating blood at age 17 and donated every 56 days until you reached 76, you would have donated 48 gallons of blood, potentially helping save more than 1,000 lives!

• Half of Red Cross donors are male, and half are female.

• The American Red Cross accepts blood donations only from volunteer donors.

Facts About the Blood Donation Process (Source: American Red Cross Blood Facts and Statistics)

• Donating blood is a safe process. A sterile needle is used only once for each donor and then discarded.

• Blood donation is a simple four-step process: registration, medical history and mini-physical, donation and refreshments.

• Every blood donor is given a mini-physical, checking the donor's temperature, blood pressure, pulse and hemoglobin to ensure it is safe for the donor to give blood.

• The actual blood donation typically takes less than 10-12 minutes. The entire process, from the time you arrive to the time you leave, takes about an hour and 15 min.

Have you ever donated blood? What was your reason for doing so? Have you ever been the recipient of a transfusion? What was it like for you? We'd love to hear your experience of the giving and the receiving. Please share in the comments below.

For more by Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, click here.

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