Donate Blood, Help Others

by Albert B. Kelly, Mayor, City of Bridgeton

There is a fine line between those who remain victims and those who join the ranks of the survivors and the difference often comes down to blood. I mention this because on Saturday, December 11, the American Red Cross will be holding a blood drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Alms Center at 1 Martin Luther King Way.

To the degree our community can be part of the solution, I want to encourage as many as possible to consider joining the effort to donate blood. The discussion revolving around blood shouldn’t be confined to how much of it is shed on our streets, but the willingness and sacrifice of all people of good will in our area who are willing and able to be part of a solution.

In many accidents that fine line between victim and survivor comes down to time and the availability of blood at the hospital. There are approximately 2,400 institutions, including hospitals and similar medical and satellite facilities that provide the vast majority of the nation’s blood supply with the Red Cross providing some 40 percent of the total.

We tend not to give this issue of blood banks any thought until we or someone we love is facing some type of medical emergency and then we hope that we’ll have access to what we need—whole blood, plasma, or platelets.

Much of what we know today about blood transfusions and what is possible with blood’s components came out of war. During World War II, scientists discovered how to break down plasma into components such as albumin and gamma globulin. One determining factor in increasing survival during WWII was the ability to use dried plasma on wounded soldiers.

The techniques first tried and tested on the battlefields of Europe, the islands of South Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, and ultimately in the Middle East inform much of how we treat trauma victims in emergency rooms today. A foundational part of trauma medicine revolves around mitigating blood loss.

But the value of donating isn’t just to help those suffering from traumatic injuries. Having an adequate blood supply is also vital to those suffering from chronic conditions such as cancer or blood disorders. In a minority-majority community such as Bridgeton, another consideration is sickle cell disease, which primarily affects people of African descent.

Sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to be crescent-shaped instead of round, which causes a lot pain as it flows damaging organs and creating issues with oxygen levels. It is important to know that people with sickle cell disease may very well need a precise match from a donor; the best way to get that match is to get donations from someone of the same race or similar ethnicity.

Donors in New Jersey must be 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent), be in generally good health and weigh at least 110 pounds, though height and weight requirements should be checked with the Red Cross.

The other thing to keep in mind when considering donating blood is whether you’re taking medications or dealing with some type of medical issue. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes and you want to donate blood, it’s important that the condition be under control.

For more details, contact Linda Brees at 856-428-8059 or via e-mail at linda.brees@redcross.org. You can also sign up by visiting redcrossblood.org and using sponsor code “SNJ Chapter.” Finally, all donors will receive a $20 Amazon.com Gift Card.

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