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The Times
  • How to save a life

  • January is National Blood Donor Month.

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  • There’s a way for people to save lives without spending any money or even much time. If helping others was on your list of resolutions for this year, consider giving blood. January is National Blood Donor Month.
    According to redcrossblood.org, January is typically a difficult month to collect blood donations because of winter weather and busy post-holiday schedules. But the need for blood is always there.
    There is no artificial source of blood; it must come from humans, according to Harvey Schaffler, executive director of donor marketing at the New York Blood Center. In addition, blood doesn’t last forever, and it’s needed every day in hospitals across the country.
    Requirements
    Blood donors must be at least 110 pounds and in general good health, Schaffler said. Age limits vary by state but are generally around 16 and older. People can donate blood about every 56 days, or six times per year. Those donating platelets can do so more often.
    The process
    Donating blood takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, Schaffler said. Donors fill out a registration form and are given a short Q&A about their medical history. Their temperature and blood pressure are taken, iron levels are checked, and then they give their pint of blood.
    For each donor, there are new, sterile materials, and blood is quickly replenished by the body, so the risks are minimal, Schaffler said.
    “The only thing you can get from donating blood is a great feeling that you’re helping somebody,” he said. Platelet donation takes a few hours and has a different process.
    Don’t wait
    Unfortunately, blood cells have a limited shelf life. Depending on the component, that shelf life varies from 42 days for red blood cells to five days for platelets. Many times, after a disaster such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, well-meaning people will rush to give blood, creating a supply too large to use. Organizations like the New York Blood Center have to manage their supply carefully, making sure to collect enough but not collect so much that some of the supply has to be thrown away.
    Schaffler encourages people to donate at their leisure. Hospitals need a supply of blood every day for all types of patients, and regular donations will give them a better chance of doing more good.
    “You don’t have to wait until there’s some public tragedy, because every day, there’s a private tragedy,” he said. “You shouldn’t just wait for a newscaster to tell you there’s a need for blood.”
    Where to go
    Many people donate at blood drives organized by their workplaces, houses of worship, or the sites of organizations they belong to. Others visit special donation sites, at which donors can stop in anytime. To find a blood donation site in your community, visit americasblood.org or do an Internet search.

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