Blood Donor Month
January is national blood donor month, and someone in the USA needs blood every 2 seconds, according to the American Red Cross. There are 111 million citizens eligible to donate, but fewer than 11 million donate annually. Red blood cells, the most frequently used component, only have a shelf life of 35-42 days, so maintaining a supply ready for emergency situations can be difficult.
Charles Richard Drew’s Blood Center Innovation
Charles Richard Drew, an American surgeon and medical researcher, was responsible for blood bank advancement. He researched blood preservation techniques at Columbia University and found a way to preserve blood components for a longer term, which enabled the beginning of larger scale blood banks and blood donation centers. His thesis on the subject earned him his Doctor of Science in Medicine degree, the first African American to do so.
He used this knowledge to collect, test, and transport large scale quantities of blood plasma in the United Kingdom, and set up the architecture for safe, skilled collection while avoiding any possibility of contamination. These techniques helped save soldiers needing blood transfusions in the 2nd World War. He went on to become the director of the first American Red Cross blood bank in 1941, but they stored African American blood separately from whites. He resigned in protest in 1942 and went on to continue his career as a surgeon and professor of medicine at Howard University.
Modern Blood Donation
Modern blood donations also test for many things, such as blood types, cholesterol, blood pressure, and STDs such as HIV, hepatitis B & C, and syphilis. In a healthy adult male, red blood cells will be completely replaced after a donation approximately 36 days after the donation. In the United States, donors must wait 56 days between whole blood donations but only seven days between platelet donations and can donate twice every seven days for plasma donations.
Patients with metabolic syndrome can have benefits from repeated donations, such as reducing blood pressure, reducing blood glucose, and reducing heart rate. There may also be a link to a reduced risk of heart disease in men.