You may not be a medical professional, but did you know that you have the ability to save up to three lives through one simple gesture? That simple act is donating blood, as one pint of blood from a single donor may save up to three lives. Blood and blood products (such as platelets) are often in short supply during the summer months as regular donors go on vacation. According to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, fewer than four percent of eligible Garden State residents donate regularly, resulting in the need for critical blood donations.
There is the misconception that blood is only used for emergency situations. Along with emergency use, blood and the products that come from it are utilized for every day needs such as transfusions and treatments for those who suffer from leukemia and blood disorders like sickle cell disease. I treat many patients, especially children, affected by sickle cell and other forms of anemia at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, which is a component of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. I see first hand the critical need of having certain blood types and blood products on hand for these patients, some of whom are on a daily treatment regimen. Keep in mind, there is no artificial substitute for blood – its only source is the human body.
Never donated before? It’s a very simple process. In New Jersey, you must be 16 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. It takes less than an hour and can be accomplished through an organized effort, such as a blood drive held by an employer or civic organization, or through a donation center. One of the closest donation centers in the area is at our flagship hospital, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. Call (732) 235-8100 for more information or visit: http://www.rwjuh.edu/medical_services/blood_donation.html.
If every college student home on break this summer rolled up his sleeve, think of all the lives that could be saved.
Richard Drachtman, MD, is the interim division chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and a professor of pediatrics at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.