DOD to Honor Blood Donors for Saving Lives
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2011 The Defense Department plans to recognize blood donors early next year for their critical contributions to saving lives by giving blood to the Armed Services Blood Program, the program’s director said today.
“National Blood Donor Month, which is usually January of every year, is an attempt to recognize those blood donors and everyone involved in blood donation for their sacrifices and rolling up their sleeves in 2011,” Army Col. Frank Rentas, director of the Armed Services Blood Program, said during a Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service interview here.
“Next month … we will be recognizing those donors that have supported our mission,” he said. “Our mission is to provide blood and blood supplies whenever and wherever they’re needed.”
The joint program plays a key role in providing quality blood products for service members and their families in both peacetime and war, according to its website.
Rentas noted the demand for blood -- which only lasts 42 days in storage before perishing -- and shared different needs for blood donation which are based on the needs of the war fighter.
“Most people, when you say ‘blood,’ they refer to red blood cells,” he said. “With red blood cells, O-negative is the most sought-after blood type because you can transfuse it to anyone out there.
“If you are looking at plasma, it’s completely opposite,” Rentas continued. “AB plasma is what we need because AB plasma is universal. So depending on our needs, we may target specific donors or specific blood types depending on what we need for a specific week.”
The program director detailed the importance of receiving donations since one donor can potentially save three lives.
“If they’re donating whole blood … we split that unit into plasma and red cells,” he explained. “One donation can actually save three different lives because we can make platelets out of some of those units as well.
“So the platelets can actually go to one recipient, the plasma can go to another, and the red cells can go to another,” Rentas added. “So that would be three different recipients that you can save with one donation.”
People can donate whole blood every 56 days, Rentas said, but some aren’t eligible to donate. “Overseas, depending on where you are, you may or may not be able to donate,” he explained.
An example, Rentas said, is people who were based in Europe in areas afflicted with what is known as Mad Cow Disease. “Even though I’m an O-negative blood donor, and donated many, many times in the [1980’s], I was assigned to Germany from 1987 to 1990,” Rentas continued, “and I have not been able to donate since because of Mad Cow Disease. Even though I feel perfectly fine, I’m not allowed to donate.”
The colonel cited the Federal Drug Administration as the authority which dictates policies and guidelines to both civilian and DOD blood donor facilities.
“We’re licensed to collect because we do have an FDA license,” he said. “So we need to follow their policies … one of their policies is if you have been in specific places where Mad Cow Disease has been a concern, you’re not allowed to donate.”
People can donate blood at more than 20 sites worldwide. Those who cannot donate blood, can still contribute by passing on the word, Rentas said.
“The best place for [service members] to get information is our website, www.militaryblood.dod.mil,” he said. “[It has] anything that they need to know about locations, they can make appointments [and] reasons about why they may not be able to donate.”
Rentas expressed his gratitude to donors for “rolling up their sleeves” to give blood and he encouraged them to continue to support the program.
“If you come to a DOD blood donor facility in January, we’re going to be holding recognition ceremonies to express our gratitude for what you have done in 2011,” he said.