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Celebrating Those Who Help Give Life to Others

Every two seconds, a person somewhere in the United States needs a blood transfusion. (Adobe Stock)
Every two seconds, a person somewhere in the United States needs a blood transfusion. (Adobe Stock)
June 12, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinoisans are being encouraged to join a global observance this week that celebrates a critical part of modern medicine. Every two seconds, a person in the United States needs blood, and World Blood Donor Day is an opportunity to thank the unpaid donors who roll up their sleeves to help save lives.

Kirby Winn, public-relations manager for Community Blood Services of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and the Central Illinois Community Blood Center in Springfield, said the annual commemoration is held on June 14 - on the birthday of a Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

"Dr. Karl Landsteiner identified the various different blood types - type A, type B, type O, and type AB - and that there is an Rh factor," Winn said. "World Blood Donor Day is a chance to acknowledge the importance of that discovery, in terms of its impact on transfusion medicine."

Blood centers around the state are hosting special events this weekend to thank donors and encourage regular donations. Winn said summer is an especially crucial time for donations, since the blood supply can drop by as much as 20%. It's estimated that one donation can save up to three lives.

Winn said that Type O-negative blood especially is sought after because it can be given to patients of all blood types. It's estimated that only 10% of people who are able to donate blood actually do so, and Winn said this might be the weekend to change that. Blood donations are always needed, he said.

"That might be for an emergency, or for cancer treatment or surgery, or complications that occurred during childbirth; these are all things that might happen any day of the year," he said, "and so it's our job to make sure that there's blood on the shelf and available at the hospital whenever it's needed."

Potential blood donors must be at least 16 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Winn said anyone with questions about his or her eligibility should call a blood-donation center.

"We far prefer that method than anyone assuming on their own basis that they're not eligible to give blood," he said. "We call that a self-deferral and frequently, we find that self-deferrals are made inaccurately, because not all of us have that level of expertise that the staff at the blood center does."

An estimated 6.8 million people in the United States give blood each year.

More information is online at bloodcenter.org.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL