Frequently Asked Questions

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1 Frequently Asked Questions Who founded the American Red Cross? Clara Barton ( ) dominates the early history of the American Red Cross, which was modeled after the International Red Cross. She did not originate the Red Cross idea, but she was the first person to establish a lasting Red Cross Society in America. She successfully organized the American Association of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C., on May 21, Created to serve America in peace and in war, during times of disaster and national calamity, Barton s organization took its service beyond that of the International Red Cross Movement by adding disaster relief to battlefield assistance. She served as the organization s volunteer president until What is the mission of the American Red Cross? The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Is the American Red Cross part of the U.S. government? The American Red Cross functions independently of the government but works closely with government agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), during times of major crises. It is responsible for giving aid to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and to disaster victims at home and abroad. It does this through services that are consistent with its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, allowing the Red Cross to stay neutral and impartial. Why are symbols other than a red cross used by other National Societies within the Movement? Although the red cross is not a religious symbol, some societies view it as such. The symbol of the red crescent is used instead of the red cross by societies in most Islamic countries; and the red crystal is used in Israel.

2 Why is blood needed? Blood is needed to sustain the lives of people whose blood functions have been impaired by injury or illness. Blood helps keep the body healthy. It carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body and takes carbon dioxide and other waste products to the lungs, kidneys and liver for disposal. It fights infections and helps heal wounds. How much blood is donated each year? According to the American Association of Blood Banks, U.S. institutions collected 15.3 million units of whole blood and red cells in Blood centers collected 93.6 percent of the donated units, while hospitals collected 6.4 percent. These donations were made by about eight million volunteer blood donors. The American Red Cross collects more than 40 percent of the blood needed across the U.S. How much blood is needed each year? According to the most recent data from the American Association of Blood Banks, U.S. hospitals transfused 14.2 million units of whole blood and red blood cells in 2004 that means an average of 38,000 units of blood are needed on any given day in the United States. What is done with donated blood? Each donated unit of whole blood can be separated into its individual components, such as red blood cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitated AHF (antihemophilic factor). Each component can be transfused to different individuals with different needs. Therefore, each whole blood donation could be used to help save more than one life. Who needs blood? Under normal circumstances, about every two seconds someone in America will need a blood transfusion. Blood transfusions are used for trauma victims, patients having heart surgery or organ transplants, women with complications during childbirth, newborns and premature babies and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or other diseases, such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia. What are the components of blood and their use? The primary components of whole blood are red blood cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate.

3 Blood Product (Main Uses) Whole blood (open heart surgery, newborns) Red blood cells (trauma, anemia, surgery) Platelets (cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and surgery patients) Fresh frozen plasma (massive transfusions) Plasma (burns) Cryoprecipitate (hemophilia and clotting disorders) Can you accumulate and store blood? Blood has a limited shelf life. The different components of blood can last from five days to a year or more depending on storage. Platelets must be used within five days of donation. Red blood cells may be stored under refrigeration for a maximum of 42 days. Frozen red blood cells can last up to 10 years, but because of the high cost involved, only a small portion of the blood supply can be frozen. Plasma is generally frozen and must be used within one year. Because blood is perishable, new donations are needed every day. What is Automated Donation? Automated donation is the process of removing a specific component of the blood, such as platelets or plasma, and returning the remaining components (red blood cells and plasma, or platelets) to the donor. This process allows more of one particular part of the blood to be collected than could be separated from a unit of whole blood. For example, the amount of platelets collected in one automated platelet donation is five to eight times more than in a regular blood donation. Automated platelet donations also allow donors to give more frequently. Platelet donors only need to wait three days before they are eligible to donate again, while whole blood donors must wait 56 days between donations. A platelet donor can donate up to 24 times in a 12-month period. What is automated a red cell donation? An automated red cell donation allows for the collection of more red blood cells from a single donor during one donation. This is important in maintaining the blood supply and alleviating shortages, especially when the inventory of certain blood types is low and needs to be boosted quickly. During automated red cell

4 donation, a volume of blood is drawn from the donor; the red cells are separated by a machine and reserved while the remaining blood components from that donation are returned to the donor. Overall, less blood volume is given than a whole blood donation, but the donation of red cells is increased making this a more concentrated and consistent product for patients. Automated red cell donors can donate every 112 days or 16 weeks. Can people contract disease by giving/receiving blood? Giving blood: The donation procedure itself is very safe with every donation a new and sterile needle is used and it is immediately disposed of after that single use. You cannot contract disease through the donation process. Receiving blood: It s also safe to receive a blood transfusion. The nation s blood supply is safer today than it has ever been it s as safe as modern science and medicine can make it. The chance of contracting the virus that causes AIDS through a blood transfusion is 1 in 1.5 million. What are the eligibility guidelines? To be a whole blood, platelet or plasma donor, you must meet the following basic requirements. You must weigh at least 110 pounds You must be at least 17 years old, 16 years old with a signed Red Cross parental/guardian consent from where state permits You must be in general good health You must not have donated blood in the last 56 days for whole blood, three days for platelets and 28 days for plasma. High school students and other donors 18 years old and younger must also meet other height and weight requirements. To be an automated double red cell donor, you must meet the following basic requirements. You must weigh at least 150 lbs. if you are male and at least 175 lbs. if you are female You must be at least 5 1 if you are male and 5 5 if you are female You must have a hemoglobin of 13.5 gm/dl You must not have donated red cells in the last 112 days.

5 In addition, all volunteer donors must pass a mini-physical and health history evaluation prior to donating. You will be asked questions to help determine if you have medical or lifestyle circumstances which would create a health risk either for you or the patient who receives your blood. Some circumstances may cause a person to be temporarily ineligible to donate blood and others may cause permanent ineligibility. If you have any questions, or if you have been told you can never donate blood again, you can discuss your history with a trained American Red Cross staff member as the guidelines for eligibility may have changed. What should people do to prepare for the donation? Be sure to eat a good meal and drink plenty of fluids at least two hours in advance of your donation. Drink juice and/or water; avoid beverages containing caffeine. Bring a picture ID with you and wear clothing with sleeves that can be raised above your elbow. Does it hurt? Most donors agree that giving blood is not painful. They liken the procedure to a small pinch on the inner arm. How long does it take? The entire donation process includes the donor s mini-physical, health history, donation and refreshment phases. The whole blood donation process requires approximately 45 to 60 minutes, with 7 to 10 minutes in the actual donation itself. The apheresis procedure takes approximately two hours. The automated red cell donation takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. What happens after donating? Plan your day to avoid heavy lifting or vigorous exercise for approximately five hours after your donation. Rehydrate by drinking plenty of fluids (juice and/or water). Most donors feel just fine after donation; a few donors experience a brief sensation of lightheadedness or dizziness. All donors should be prepared to experience the good feeling that comes with knowing that you may have helped save the lives of as many as three patients in need.

6 If you are a first-time donor with the American Red Cross, check your mail for a blood-donor card 6 to 8 weeks after your donation. The card will indicate your blood type and will provide a space to record each future blood donation. How often can people donate blood? A donor can give whole blood as often as every 56 days, automated red cells every 112 days, plasma every 28 days and platelets up to 24 times per year. When you take someone s whole blood, what happens to it? As you donate whole blood, your blood is collected in a pint-size bag and in six small test tubes. The needle used for your donation is sterile and is disposed of after your donation. Both the blood bag and the test tubes are sent to a Red Cross processing facility. The Red Cross sends the test-tube blood samples to Red Cross testing laboratories. The samples of your blood undergo as many as 12 tests to ensure that your blood is safe for patients. Shipping, screening and testing take approximately two days. While waiting for the test results, the Red Cross processes your blood donation. A whole blood donation can be separated into three components: red cells, platelets and plasma or cryoprecipitate. The blood components are stored until the test results are known. When the test results are received and the blood declared safe for transfusion, the Red Cross labels your blood components according to your blood type. The components are stored at the appropriate temperatures until they are distributed to hospitals. At the hospital, doctors determine when a patient needs a blood or blood product transfusion. How long can blood be stored before a patient receives it? Red cells must be transfused within 42 days of the donation. Platelets must be transfused within five days of the day they are collected from the donor. Plasma can be frozen and used within one year. Because blood components have a short shelf-life, they cannot be stockpiled; thus, ample blood donations are needed each day for patients in need.

7 Does the patient pay for donated blood? The American Red Cross does not charge for the blood itself. However, to ensure the quality and safety of donated blood, several processing steps are required before blood reaches the patient. The expenses incurred to collect, process and test donations are transferred to the hospital as a processing fee. This fee, along with blood type cross-matching, handling and transfusion fees, are added to the patient s bill and are covered by most insurance policies, including Medicare. Do patients receive a monetary credit if someone donates blood for them? The American Red Cross operates on a community-service philosophy and believes that blood should be available to all who need it, regardless of economic status, ability to donate, place of residence or age. The only charge from the Red Cross will be the processing fee mentioned above which is passed on to the hospital, which covers the direct costs of collecting, testing and distributing blood. The Red Cross does not add an additional blood-replacement fee as this drives up the cost of blood transfusion and discriminates against those patients who do not have replacement donors. Because the Red Cross does not charge this fee, there is no need to offset it with a monetary credit for giving blood. What is the benefit to people who are blood donors? Blood donors give the special gift of life. A single donation of whole blood can help save the lives of as many as three critically ill or injured patients; some platelet donations can help as many as two patients in need. Donors benefit in knowing that they have helped maintain the community blood supply, which helps ensure that blood will be available when it is needed for family, friends and community members. Most of all, it feels good to know you may have helped save a life. How can c a blood donation or blood drive be scheduled? Call RED CROSS or visit redcrossblood.org to schedule a lifesaving opportunity.

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