One More Gift to Give: Life

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Although the holidays have passed and gift giving is coming to a halt, there is one gift you can give that is free and can save lives: blood donation.

January is National Blood Donor month and there is an urgent need for blood donors, especially for Type “O” and Type “B” in Southern Maryland, according to the American Red Cross, Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region’s website.

St. Mary’s Hospital uses about 3,000 units of blood a year.  The shelf life for blood is about 35 to 42 days.  Each unit of blood can save three or four lives, according to the American Red Cross.  St. Mary’s Hospital uses the most blood during September through February, said Tim Buhler, the hospital’s Blood Bank Section Chief.  He said the demand for blood increases by about three to five percent each year.  Patients who are chronically ill and cancer patients are the major users of blood.  Chemotherapy wipes out a person’s system, so blood and platelet transfusions are necessary. 

St. Mary’s Hospital hosts a blood drive each month, which rotates between the hospital’s campus in Leonardtown and the Lexington Park Library, so get out and donate.  To sign up to donate blood or for more information, contact Health Connections at 301-475-6019 or visit the American Red Cross Web site at

The upcoming blood drive at the Health Connections building at St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown is Feb. 16 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Upcoming blood drives at the Lexington Park Library are Jan. 14 and March 11 from noon to 6 p.m. 

Fast Facts on Blood Donation

• Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood.
• More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.
• One out of every 10 people admitted in a hospital needs blood.
• The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
• A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood.
• The average adult has about 10 to 12 pints of blood in his or her body. A donation consists of about one pint of blood.
• Blood shortages of all types come typically during the summer and winter holidays.

Eligibility to Donate

• Must be at least 17 years old. You can be 16 with written parental permission in Maryland.
• Must weigh at least 110 pounds.
• Have not donated whole blood in the last 56 days.
• Be in generally good health and have no signs of infection the day of the donation.
• Have blood pressure below 180/100 at the time of donation.
• Have not had a baby in the previous six weeks.
• Must list any nations visited in the last three years, including the length of stay.
• Other factors, such as medications and low iron may also impact the ability to donate.

SOURCE: American Red Cross

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