National Blood Donor Month

by Catherine Ernotte


Since 1970, January has been designated National Blood Donor Month. The American Red Cross reports that this is a time of the year when it is difficult to maintain a significant blood supply.  Extreme weather conditions in some parts of the country, seasonal illness, or in our case this year’s ongoing COVID-19, and busy holiday schedules lower the amount of blood donations.

Donated blood saves lives and improves health.  According to the World Health Organization “blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person-the gift of life.” Blood may be utilized whole or in separate components like red cells, plasma, or platelets and 1 pint can potentially save 3 lives.

A few historical facts about blood:  In the 1900s the ABO blood group system was developed by Dr. Karl Landsteiner.  The 4 blood types A-B-AB and 0 were developed by Dr. Jan Jansky.  At the Mount Sanai Hospital in New York, Dr. Reuben Ottenberg performed the 1st blood transfusion in 1907.  Cook County Hospital in Chicago in 1937 had the 1st hospital blood bank opened by Dr. Bernard Fantus.  Going further back in history, in 1616 English Physician Dr. William Harvey published “On the Motion of the Heart and Blood” describing his account of the circulation of the blood in the body.

According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, 88% of individuals are less likely to suffer a heart attack if they have donated blood.  To maintain an adequate supply 13,000 donations are needed daily.  Each year 4.5 million people die without getting a life-saving transfusion.  In the United State, 38% of the population can give but only 10% do.

It is important to know your blood type.  Certain types are more prevalent than others.  There is a positive or negative that is associated with your blood type letter.  This is an inherited characteristic from your parents and is called the RH Factor. This is a protein outside the red blood cell.  Positive is more common than negative.  Regarding letter typing starting with the most to least common is O, A, B, and AB. O negative is the universal donor meaning it can usually be given to many people and AB positive is the universal recipient because it has all of the general types.  Blood type has to be a specific donor to recipient to avoid a reaction.


If you can donate, please do.  Some conditions may exclude donation but perhaps you can be a champion in motivating others to contribute.  An individual may donate up to every 8 weeks.  Again, learn and remember your blood type.  During this pandemic, if you are unsure of your safety call a blood donor center or drive up to a Big Red Bus that is sent out to receive donors and ask them your questions.  SAVE LIVES, BE A DONOR.

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