By Katie Nippress
February is African American History Month, and an excellent time to honor the contributions of Dr. Charles Richard Drew, an African American physician, surgeon, and medical researcher. His research in the field of blood transfusions aided in the development of large-scale blood banks early in World War II, allowing medics to save thousands of Allied lives. Thanks to Dr. Drew’s work, someone in the U.S. now receives a blood transfusion every two seconds.
As home to the largest medical center complex in the world, Houston has an ongoing need for a strong and stable blood supply. More than 800 blood donations are required every single day, seven days a week, to sustain the lives of patients here in the Greater Houston area. I am proud to work for Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center: a non-profit organization that helps to meet those needs. As an Oasian, it is one way that I can make my life meaningful by making a difference in my community.
Did You Know?
1 in 7 people will need blood at some point in their lifetime, but only 1 in 20 will donate. Each time I repeat the statistic, it surprises me. That is just 5% of the population donating blood!
Blood donation is a safe and easy way to make an impact. The process takes about 30-45 minutes, including the pre-donation health screening. After you have done your heroic duty for the day, you’ll receive some juice and cookies. The guidelines say that donors should avoid strenuous activities and alcohol for the remainder of the day, stay hydrated, and eat a hearty meal. But in reality, most donors experience no real side effects, and easily return to work and other activities once the donation is complete.
Within eight hours, The Blood Center will have processed your blood, separating it into three components: red cells, plasma, and platelets. Teams will work through the night to complete 14 different tests on your blood, including the most recent addition of Zika testing. Once your blood clears testing, you’ll receive a text message to let you know the blood components are on their way to a local hospital where your one donation will help save three patients’ lives!
Did You Know?
At any given time, there is typically just a one- to three-day supply of blood on the shelves. Time and again, we see generous donors lining up for hours to give their blood after a tragedy occurs. After 9/11. After the Pulse Night Club incident. After Hurricane Harvey. After the shooting at Santa Fe High School. Donors have waited as long as six hours in the summer sun to give their blood and help the victims of these tragedies. However, the true heroes were those who had already given their blood in the days before, not knowing a mass tragedy would strike. It was their blood that was already on the shelf when victims were rushed to emergency rooms. After the emergency, it is often too late.
Patients across our region face personal emergencies daily that do not make the news. Their crisis is not televised and goes unnoticed by many, but it is every bit as heart-breaking. The following plea was shared with The Blood Center by a recent Spring Branch ISD graduate:
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the thousands of people that donate blood every day. I’m a soon to be two-time cancer survivor that has had more than her fair share of blood transfusions. It all started on January 10, 2008 when I was first diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia. I was only nine at the time.
The cancer grows so fast that the day I was diagnosed was the day they started chemo. Having the doctors poison all of my blood with chemotherapy left me with no immune system, no energy, and no way to stop bleeding when I got cut.
The blood transfusions bring me back up, so that I can continue to the next round of chemo. Truth be told, I look forward to getting a blood transfusion. Being at the in-between stage where your blood counts are low, but not low enough to get a blood transfusion, hurts. I get migraines, throw up, and need to be wheeled around everywhere because walking even just a few steps makes me light-headed.
Your body will recover from the donation within about 24 hours. Without the blood transfusion, my body will not recover. My body will not be able to fight. Without the countless blood transfusions, I can’t receive the chemotherapy that saves my life. Without the blood transfusions, I wouldn’t be here today. And without them, I won’t be able to call myself a two-time cancer survivor when I finish chemotherapy in May. Please Commit for Life, so you can save lives like mine.”
If every able donor would commit to quarterly blood donations, our hospitals would never see a shortage of blood. It is only our human hands (and veins!) that can solve these human problems. There is no substitute for blood; it must come from a healthy volunteer blood donor.
Save the Date! The first Houston Oasis Blood Drive of 2019 will be held on Sunday, March 3, from 9:30am – 1:30pm. Sign up here to help Oasis save lives and support Houston area hospitals.