A reader recently complained to me that I’m always appealing for your body parts and organs, as though I can’t wait for you all to die off. Believe me, this is not my intent–I just think it’s really excellent to recycle usable organs to people who might need them. (Which I know includes some of my readers.)
But there are other ways you can help people in need which don’t involve being dead, and they include donating blood.
Usually when there’s some sort of national trauma like the 11 September attacks or Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross is flooded with blood donations which slow back to a trickle as soon as the event (and need) have left the national consciousness. But blood products are always needed in this country, and a steady flow of blood donations can help blood banks continue to supply blood to those who need it.
Blood can’t be banked forever. It does go bad. And some blood products such as platelets require a high volume of blood to work with. Therefore, it’s critical for people to donate blood all the time, not just during emergencies. Blood products are used daily across the country–in emergency rooms, surgery suites, and by people managing their illnesses. Did you know you can donate blood as often as every eight weeks? And the Red Cross gives you cool stuff when you donate, like juice, cookies, and t-shirts?
Especially if you have a rare blood type, it’s a really superb idea to donate blood. You can also bank your own blood, if you’re having an elective surgery that might result in a need for transfusion.
However, there are some restrictions on blood donation, and it’s a good idea to review the Red Cross requirements before offering blood. Here’s a quick list of factors which will result in rejection as a donor:
- Bloodborne pathogens–obviously, anyone with HIV/AIDS, any form of Hepatitis (this includes non-symptomatic Hepatitis–if you have ever had Hepatitis or unexplained jaundice you may not donate), or another bloodborne disease would be rejected as a donor so that they don’t contaminate the blood pool. Also, if you have any sort of infection you should wait several weeks to donate. Obviously, don’t donate if you have hemophilia or another clotting disorder, or are on medication which inhibits blood clotting (such as Coumadin or Heparin). You must wait three years after completing malaria treatment to donate, if you are unfortunate enough to have had malaria.
- Weight under 110 pounds–the volume of blood necessary for donation could be an issue for people who are underweight.
- Tattoos and piercings–thanks to societal prejudice about tattoo and piercing, you must wait one year to donate blood. The Red Cross claims that this is related to concerns about hepatitis, which it may well be–but you’re allowed to donate if you’ve had acupuncture, another practice which involves being poked with needles.
- You must be at least 17 years old
- Medications–some medications are fine to donate with, while others are not. Check with your doctor or the Red Cross to be sure. Likewise with immunizations, which have waiting times ranging from a week to two months.
- Blood transfusions, blood products, organ and tissue products–you must wait 12 months after receiving a transfusion or blood product. There is also a year waiting period for anyone who has received an organ or tissue transplant. If you have received blood or bovine-derived healthcare products from Great Britain or most British protectorates after 1980, you may not donate blood (due to variant CJD). Likewise with many African Countries after 1977 (due to AIDS concerns). If you have received human pituitary growth hormone or brain/spinal tissue derived material, you are not eligible to donate.
- Incarceration–if you have been imprisoned for more than 72 hours, you must wait 12 months to donate.
- Intravenous drug usage–due to concerns about bloodborne pathogens, individuals with a history of any non-prescribed IV drug use may not donate.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases–you must wait 12 months to donate if you have been infected with and treated for any venereal disease.
- Being gay–that’s right kids! If you’re gay, the Red Cross doesn’t want your blood. In fact, even if you’re straight and you’ve engaged in “homosexual risk practices,” you can’t donate blood. That means that if you’re a dude and you’ve sucked dick, you can’t donate. (Although ladies who blow are welcome to.) Likewise if you’re a man and another man has put his penis in your ass. Apparently the Red Cross has some prejudice to work through, eh?
So, to cap it up, if you’re not gay, a junkie, infected with anything gross, a recipient of blood/tissue/organ products, tattoed or pierced, underage, a criminal, or anorexic, you can donate blood. So go to it, kiddos.