An Unusual…but Needed…Holiday Gift

donate bloodEvery two seconds, someone in the United States is in need of blood. With just one donation of a pint of blood, up to three lives can be saved.  In New Jersey, according to the state Department of Health, fewer than four percent of eligible residents donate regularly, resulting in the need for critical blood donations.  Richard Drachtman, MD, interim chief of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey sheds light on how important these donations truly are.

Q:  What is donated blood used for?

A:  Blood donations are not only used for emergency surgery, but also for everyday needs such as transfusions and treatments for those who suffer from blood disorders like sickle cell disease.  I treat many patients, especially children, affected by this disease at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, which is a component of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at the Cancer Institute. I see first hand the critical need of having certain blood types and blood products (like platelets) on hand for these patients.  Patients on a daily treatment regimen can not afford to wait an extra day or two until their blood type becomes available.

Q:  How critical is it to have regular donations?

A:  Donating blood throughout the year is extremely important, however, the demand for blood is highest during the holiday season as the donor turnout takes a plunge due to inclement weather, busy shopping schedules, and the flu season in full swing.  If every college student home on break this season rolled up his or her sleeve, we could avert what typically becomes a crisis at this time of year. 

Q:  How can people help?

A:  Donating blood is a very simple process.  You must be 17 years old or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.   One of the closest donation centers in the area is at 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. And many businesses are receptive to holding company-wide blood drives – just check with your human resources department.   The whole process takes about 30 minutes and can be the best holiday gift you give this season.