THIS IS THE SEASON of brotherhood, glad tidings-and a critically low blood supply. Traditionally, holidays are accident-prone times of, well, increased bloodshed. If history repeats itself, blood bank officials will be begging you to come in and give the gift that keeps on giving.
Most of us fear someone poking our arm with a needle. Studies show that the only reason people donate blood is because somebody asks them to. Blood bank officials say it’s easier to raise hard-earned greenbacks than it is to get people to roll up their sleeves. And tending to the blood supply is a complex marketing problem. It’s a lot like trying to keep fresh lettuce on the produce shelves: Put out too much, and it spoils and goes to waste. Don’t put out enough, and consumers complain. The problem is that blood can’t be bought or manufactured. It is only available in the veins of healthy individuals. Even money doesn’t talk: Current statutes and Federal Drug Administration regulations don’t allow blood banks to pay for blood. It must be donated-and it’s not even tax-deductible.
Giving blood is about a 45-minute process that begins with a questionnaire. Do you have heart trouble, kidney disease, diabetes, phlebitis, hepatitis, blood diseases or other traits that would preclude you from giving blood? The specter of AIDS, a disease that can be transmitted in blood, has dictated that donors read a statement identifying high-risk groups: sexually active homosexuals or bisexual men with multiple partners, present or past abusers of intravenous drugs and Haitian entrants to the United States. (A test to detect AIDS has been developed but is not expected to be marketed until March 1985.) A healthy donor can give blood every 56 day
Every two minutes, someone in Dallas needs a transfusion. Some blood demands exceed the norm, calling for a large city such as Dallas to hold an astounding quantity of blood. The average open-heart surgery requires 80 to 100 pints; severe burns, 300 to 400 pints; a gunshot wound, 100 to 150 pints; an auto accident, 10 to 50 pints per victim. A hemophiliac may require 300 to 400 pints of blood a yea
But here’s why your gift will keep on giving: All four Dallas blood banks offer a security plan. The blood center at Wadley, for instance, Dallas’ largest blood bank, offers what it calls its “Life Plan.” If you donate one pint of blood annually, you and your family will never pay a cent for needed blood, no matter how much or where the blood is transfused. At present, about 43,000 people are enrolled in the Wadley plan. Blood banks also offer special group blood coverage plans when 20 percent of a company’s employees donate blood.
Your one altruistic effort may cause you to be contacted again (and again), especially during periods of critical blood shortages. But remember-what was the line?-the life you save may be your own!