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Why a Trauma Surgeon Depends on Your Blood Donation

By Brianna McCabe

At a hospital, donated blood is used to help ill or injured people on a regular basis. In fact, every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. But as potential donors, do we truly understand how giving blood can make an impact? To put it into perspective, we spoke to Abimbola B. Pratt, M.D., a board certified surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s Level II Trauma Center and a provider at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group, to better understand how and why a trauma surgeon – among other health care providers – depends on your blood donation.

Dr. Pratt recalls, “Recently, a 59-year-old man was transferred from another hospital to Jersey Shore University Medical Center after a fall at home. His spleen was shattered and he had lost half of his total blood volume. It was clear that without more – and quick – transfusions, even surgery would not have saved his life.”

The average patient can lose up to 14% of their blood without experiencing any major side effects. At around 15-30% of total blood volume loss, patients might experience mild effects such as nausea and anxiety. When a person loses 30-40% of their total blood volume, the body begins to react more traumatically; a patient may feel disoriented, confused, and can become unconscious. After 50% of total blood volume loss, a patient’s body can begin to shut down and it can be fatal.

According to Dr. Pratt, the patient had rare antibodies that made it difficult to find a match for a transition. “With the great effort and diligence of the blood bank, surgery and treatment by our staff, he made a full recovery. Without blood donation, he would not be alive today.”

In cases where a traumatic injury is being treated there is an obvious need for donated blood; however, patients rely on donations in a wide range of circumstances including cancer care, anemia and blood disorders.

This lifesaving care for those in desperate need starts with one person making a donation of his or her blood. Dr. Pratt says, “Donating blood, especially on a regular basis, can be similar to volunteer work. You give up your time and your literal blood to help strangers in need.” In fact, approximately 32,000 pints of blood are used each day – and just one pint of donated blood can save as many as three people’s lives.

To pay tribute to blood donors, January is recognized as National Blood Donor Month. “In general, people who are in good health and feeling well can donate blood,” shares Dr. Pratt. A donor in New Jersey must be at least 16 years of age with parental consent, weigh at least 110 pounds, and have not donated blood within the last 56 days. “Patients older than 75 years old should be examined by a physician before donation,” he adds.

According to Dr. Pratt, an individual may be ineligible and/or asked to defer his or her donation if:

You are not feeling well (i.e. cold or flu)

You are on certain medications, such as human pituitary-derived growth hormones or Tegison

Your iron levels are low

You have travelled to a malaria-risk country within the past three years

A donor may be asked more questions to determine donor eligibility about the following illnesses or conditions:

Anemia

Asthma

Bleeding conditions

Cancer

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)

Diabetes

Heart disease

Heart murmur

Hereditary Hemachromatosis

Hepatitis

HIV/AIDS

Infections

Sickle cell

Tuberculosis

“There is no replacement for blood – it cannot be manufactured,” Dr. Pratt comments. “A single donation is a gift of hope, opportunity, and life.”

More facts about blood and blood donations:

There are 34 blood group systems recognized by the International Society for Blood Transfusion, with the most significant being the ABO system and the Rh system.

The approximate distribution of blood types in the U.S. population is as follows:

O-positive: 38%

O-negative: 7%

A-positive: 34%

A-negative: 6%

B-positive: 9%

B-negative: 2%

AB-positive: 3%

AB-negative: 1%

The average adult has 10 pints of blood in his or her body.

Blood makes up about 7% of your body's weight.

An estimated 38% of the population is eligible to donate, but less than 10% actually donate.

Hackensack Meridian Health has two regional trauma centers: Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune and Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack. Learn more about emergency medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health.

Visit this page for more information on Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group.

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

Resources

56 Facts About Blood and Blood Donation

Blood Needs and Blood Supply

Dana Moriarty, BSMT, ASCP, technical supervisor of transfusion medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center

How Much Blood Can You Lose Without Severe Side Effects?

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