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Official Thanks Blood Donors, Encourages More Donations

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The process is familiar to many.

Squeeze the ball a few times to make the vein visible and look away as the needle punctures the arm. Make idle conversation as the medical technician fills the vials with blood, and then the bag. Get the sticker that says, “I gave blood” and grab a cookie.

After the donation, a technician tests the blood to ensure there are no diseases such as HIV or hepatitis. Then, the whole blood is separated into red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

There is always a need for blood, because blood is perishable. The red blood cells are good for only 42 days, platelets for five days and plasma for up to one year, said Army Lt. Col. Jose Quesada, chief of blood services at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Donors can donate a pint, or 500 milliliters, every 57 days.

“One pint of blood can save two lives,” said Mark Salcedo, an Armed Services Blood Program blood donor recruiter and public affairs specialist at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. “And without blood donors, our patients who may need blood don’t go home to their family members.”

A constant supply of donors is necessary to ensure the blood donor center has blood every day, he said. “Blood is a lifesaving product,” he added. “Blood and blood products like plasma and platelets save lives. We encourage people to donate blood as frequently as they can.”

Blood Donating Questions

Quesada said first-time donors should ask the staff about the process, because the staff wants the donors to be comfortable so they will become repeat donors. Donors should be hydrated and have something to eat before donating, especially something with sugar in it, he added. The goal for the staff, he said, is for donors to have a great experience.

“We will walk them through the process so they are comfortable and understand that we’re going to take care of them as a blood donor,” Salcedo said. “Our goal is to have them have a great experience, because we want them to come back -- we need them to come back. And then to know we’ll take care of them if there’s a problem. If they hydrate well, if their sugar level’s up, that should help minimize any problems they might have as a blood donor.”

Quesada said the military blood donor centers follow regulatory guidelines set forth by the Food and Drug Administration and accrediting agencies. Donors who travel to a malarial area cannot donate for 12 months; the only exception for this is north of Seoul, South Korea, which requires a 24-month deferral. There is no longer a deferral requirement for anti-malarial medications.

Some states allow people with tattoos to donate, and others don’t, Quesada noted. “The ASBP has a list of approximately 34 states in which a potential blood donor is deferred for one week to ensure the tattoo site has properly healed,” he said.

The Importance of Donors

Quesada said he encourages everyone to donate to the Armed Services Blood Program. ASBP blood donations directly support warfighters downrange and patients at military and Veterans Affairs treatment facilities.

“Without our blood donors, our patients may not go home,” Salcedo said. “Whether it was blood for a patient here at the San Antonio Military Medical Center or for a combat casualty overseas, we need blood donors. We thank them for giving a little of themselves to ensure our patients have what they need when they need it. We thank them for the time and support to our missions.

“Whether it’s here in San Antonio, downrange, wherever,” he continued, “we want to make sure our patients have what they need when they need it. That can only happen when we’ve got blood donors. Thank you to the ones who come in to make sure our patients have what they need, and we invite those who are considering donating.”

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