When you donate blood you save and improve the lives of service members and their families.
The U.S. has been at war for more than nine years. According to the 2011 Defense Casualty Report more than 5,500 service members have died in combat operations and more than 42,000 have been injured. Without donations to the Armed Services Blood Program, it wouldn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see the number of deaths doubled or tripled.
That’s why ASBP personnel conduct blood drives around Oahu on a regular basis, such as the March 16 blood drive here.
But just as important is the impact ASBP blood donations have on military families and service members at home. The blood you donate to the program stays in the military community and is used in emergency procedures, operations, and in many cases, to treat disorders over a long period of time.
“They need my blood,” said Cpl. Matthew Sweet, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific’s aviation safety noncommissioned officer-in-charge who donates blood on a regular basis. “I’m a universal donor and I get free doughnuts and a T-shirt out of the deal,” he said jokingly.
A unit of blood can be separated into red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues throughout the human body, platelets and plasma, which contribute to blood clotting and prevents the patient from bleeding out.
“No matter what your blood type is, you should donate,” said Navy Seaman Michaela Armstrong, a hospital corpsman with the Camp H. M. Smith Medical Annex. “If you were in a situation where you needed blood and they only had four units of O negative blood [the universal donor blood type], they would only give you one unit. That’s because O negative is always in demand, but if they have your blood type on hand, it could save a life.”
Blood donations do more than save lives; for some it improves the quality of their lives. Patients with anemia, a condition where the patient has a low red blood cell count, require red blood cell transfusions to prevent multiple debilitating symptoms, such as fatigue, heart murmurs and heart attacks. Transfusions are also used to treat cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and the list of conditions it can treat goes on.
According to Army 1st Lt. Mark W. Preston, officer-in-charge of Tripler Medical Center’s Blood Donor Center, there is always a need for blood and every drop counts.
Even the excess blood in the tube is tested to ensure patients receive the right blood type and that it’s safe for use.
If you’re on the fence as to whether you want to donate, remember that the choice to donate doesn’t just affect the troops, it affects their families as well.
It only takes a slight pinch of a needle and a pint of blood to save someone’s husband, wife, sister, brother or child.
“If you’re worried about the needle sting, imagine what someone in an intensive care unit or on deployment might be going through,” Armstrong said. “The more relaxed you are the easier it is and it’s relatively painless to begin with.”
For more information, visit the ASBP’s official website at https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil. If in Hawaii, you can contact the Tripler Blood Donor Center at (808) 433-6148.
The next ASPB blood drive is scheduled for March 29 at the Schofield Barracks Exchange.