A five-year old girl is riding down the street, on her way to her bestfriend’s house. She doesn’t have a care in the world and is quietly humming toherself. Suddenly a car whips around the corner and swerves to avoid the child,but he looses control and squarely hits the girl, causing the her to fall andget trapped between the car and her battered bicycle. A main artery in her leghas been severed and blood fills the gutter of the street. As she gets rushedto the hospital in the ambulance, a pint of blood is given to her to attempt toreplace some of the life giving fluid that is pouring out of her leg. In theend she received four pints of blood and made a full recovery.Although everything turned out all right for the girl, things could havebeen much different.
What if that blood hadn’t been there because the nation’sblood supply was low? What if the blood that she received had been infectedwith a deadly disease such as Syphilis or HIV? These are pressing concerns fortoday’s society. Even though one in every five people will need a bloodtransfusion and the risk of contracting a disease such as AIDS is practicallynegligible, people are still concerned that the blood that they receive may haveharmful or deadly diseases and that today’s blood supply is not “safe.”However, “safe” means different things for different people. For some,safe is an absolute security from any danger. This is an extreme viewpoint,though, because most people realize that one can never be completely safe.
Another, and more popularly held connotation of “safe,” is the probability ofnot getting hurt. This is a much more reasonable and plausible definition andtherefor will be used throughout this paper. However, even though theoverwhelming probability is that nothing will go wrong, people still fear thatthe nation’s blood supply is unsafe. They are incorrect in this belief, though,because much is done to assure that the nation’s blood supply is, in fact, safe.One requirement to having a safe blood supply is to have an extensivereserve, because this allows for the option of discarding any blood that ispotentially unsafe.The assurance of an ample blood supply begins with thedonation process. Most of the people in this country have the capability todonate blood.
However, only 4 percent of the eligible population actuallydonates.1 There are few restrictions and the reason why there are bloodshortages is because people don’t want to donate as opposed to can’t donate.For most blood centers, the physical criteria that a donor must meet are asfollows: person must be at least 17 years of age, weigh 110 pounds, and be ingood physical health. However, if so many people can donate blood why do so fewchoose to?Most people are afraid of giving blood. There are many misconceptionsabout the process of donating blood and receiving transfusions. For example,people believe that there is a danger of contracting diseases, especially AIDS,from the needles used during the process. However, these chances are zero, anda person has less of a chance of contracting a disease while giving blood thanhe has in any other ordinary situationActually, people have little to fear about giving blood. Manyprecautions are taken to assure that the process is safe for the donor, and theblood that is received is safe for the recipient.
Before the donor even getsclose to the bed or the needle, he first must complete a thorough survey askingabout his past and potentially risky behavior. The survey asks about recentsexual encounters, focusing on homosexual situations. It also asks about druguse, body piercing, and prostitution, which are all considered to be “at riskbehaviors.” If the donor has participated in such behavior he will not beallowed to donate until a time when it is safer for everyone involved. If thedonor passes the screening, his blood is collected in a new, plastic bag with abrand new needle. The needle and everything used during the process, from thefinger lancet to the cotton swabs, are disposed of instead of being reused,which eliminates the possibility of something not being properly sterilized.
Also, if by chance, the nurse misses the vein and must reinsert a needle, hewill start over with a new needle, to assure sterility. After the blood isdrawn, it is sent to certain laboratories, where it is tested for diseases suchas HIV. If there is a problem, the donor will even be notified to assure thathe or she doesn’t put anyone else at risk. At any point in this process, bloodthat does not reach the proper standards will be removed from the supply,assuring safety.
In fact, two to ten percent of the units of blood that arereceived end up being removed because of uncertainty. 2Another reason why people may be hesitant to donate is because theydon’t know the benefits of giving blood. First, because of the screeningprocess, the donor receives a sort of mini-physical every eight weeks. Thislets a person keep a check on his or her blood pressure, pulse, temperature,weight, and iron reading. It is a good way to assure that one is remaininghealthy. Also, not only does the blood that is given help someone in desperateneed of it, the donor feels good about himself, too. The donor can walk out ofthe center with a firm sense that he has helped someone in need.After the blood is drawn, many tests are performed on it, providinganother way to insure that the blood supply is safe.
Testing is done forSyphilis, Hepititis B and C, abnormal liver function, and Human T-LymphotrophicVirus type I and type II. All of these diseases are blood-born and have thepotential of being extremely harmful if not fatal. However, the main fear thatpeople have regarding a blood transfusion is that they may contract AIDS. Thisis a result of a lack of understanding about what AIDS is or how it is tested.AIDS, an acronym for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a blood-borndisease that attacks one’s immune system, leaving him susceptible to lesserdiseases that may not be a threat to a person with a healthy immune system.
Itis caused by a virus known as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and over a fewyears develops into AIDS. The only ways to contract HIV are through bodilyfluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk. It is because blood is oneof the means of contracting the disease, many people are afraid of donating andreceiving blood. However, HIV is also one of the diseases thoroughly tested forin the testing process. Two HIV related tests are performed, one for the HIVantigen and the other for the HIV antibody. The purpose of testing twice is toassure that the presence of the disease is noticed. If a person tests positivefor either the HIV antigen or antibody, he is permanently deferred, meaning thathe will never be allowed to donate.1The main reason why people are concerned about the safety of the bloodsupply is because they are afraid of contracting a disease in the event thatthey need to receive blood.
However, precautions are also made to insure thesafety of blood transfusions. For example, all of the blood used fortransfusions either comes from the blood center or is drawn by the same methods.This insures that the level of sterility and testing for harmful diseases is ashigh as it is for donation. In the hospital, sterile one-use needles are alsoused as they are in the blood center. Also, careful screening is done to makesure that the blood types match and that the donor blood is compatible with thea patient’s blood, preventing diseases such as jaundice. In both the bloodcenter where the donations take place and the hospital where the transfusionsoccur, the staff is highly trained and knowledgeable.
Each nurse or assistantmust have basic medical training to get the job, and although human error exists,it is minimal.Due to the many safeguards and precautions taken, the blood supply inAmerica is safe. The risk of contracting a disease from the donation process isquite minimal and there are more reasons to give blood than not to give blood.It is my opinion that if a person can give blood, they should. Donating bloodis noble, safe, and painless, and when blood is given, the donor gets awonderful feeling of doing good for someone and can be confident that he or shemay have saved a life.
So when that little girl arrives at the hospital,unconscious and bleeding, she can be sure that the blood she receives will besafe.Works Cited1 The Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin, “Testing Performed on All BloodDonations” 5/962 The American Association of Blood Banks, ” Recieving Blood” 1995Category: Science