Give Blood, Save a Life: People — and Pets — Need Blood

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By Dawn Klavon

Blood banks are the unsung heroes of health care, serving as the lifeline for countless patients in need. Each plays an indispensable role in securing a steady supply of blood and blood products, which are vital for surgeries, trauma care, cancer treatments, and more.

In Prince William, mobile blood drives from the American Red Cross provide frequent opportunities for generous donors to give blood in a convenient way. Local medical facilities rely on the Red Cross for blood supply.

“We do have regularly scheduled blood drives here at SNVMC [Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, in Woodbridge] in our Hylton Education Center, but those drives are done in collaboration with the American Red Cross,” said Jon Radulovic, SNVMC Communications Advisor. “The Red Cross staff come in and set up and conduct the actual blood drive. Here at the hospital, we basically provide the space. In fact, the American Red Cross handles all blood procurement for us.”

Donors: The Heart of the System

Blood banks rely on the generosity of donors to maintain an adequate supply of blood. The American Red Cross in the Virginia Region serves 118 independent cities and counties with a population of 5.8 million. In PWC, the community’s spirit shines brightly when individuals regularly donate blood to those in need. Local businesses, schools, churches, and other organizations frequently host blood drives, further bolstering the blood supply. To find a blood drive near you, visit redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive.

The need is definitely there. Cancer patients, burn patients, sickle cell patients, trauma patients, and patients with chronic diseases depend on donations. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood   whole blood, red cells, platelets, or plasma. Approximately
29,000 units of red blood cells, nearly 5,000 units of platelets, and 6.500 units of plasma are needed daily in the United States.

The good news? Each year, an estimated 6.8 million people across the country donate blood, according to the American Red Cross. Whole blood donations can be made by donors every 56 days, up to six times a year. Donors need to be at least 16 years of age in most states, over 110 pounds, in good health, and
feeling well.

Blood Bank for Pets?

Believe it or not, sometimes animals need blood transfusions too. The North American Veterinary Blood Bank in Manassas provides blood products to veterinarians across the country. The NAVBB has both dog donors and cat donors and can make appointments at their Manassas location (9431 Main Street) Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Health care advancements over the past 30 years have changed how pets are cared for. Many health care options available to humans are now also available to pets.

Cancer was once a death sentence; today, the veterinary field offers a variety of chemotherapy options that extend lives, improve symptoms, and even provide cures, according to Samantha Dascomb, NAVBB Marketing Coordinator. As a result of these advances, blood donation and banking are as important in the veterinary field as they are for the human world.

There are currently only 11 veterinary blood banks registered with the Association of Veterinary Hematology and Transfusion Medicine. Combined the veterinary blood banks can only meet about 30 to 40% of the yearly demand for blood products.

“Pet parents need to know that, just like us, pets are susceptible to illnesses that lead to the need for receiving blood transfusions,” said Dr. Melanie Galanis, DVM, Medical Director. “By becoming a regular blood donor, they are giving their pet additional healthcare to help catch changes in their pet’s health early while giving a sick or injured pet the gift of life.”

Blood donations from canine and feline donors are distributed across the country to emergency hospitals, surgery centers, and dialysis centers with each donor saving up to four canines each donation.

“In addition, our donors can opt-in to contribute to longevity studies and research through universities and government studies to cure diseases and create new treatments and technologies for canines,” Dascomb said.

The organization is founded by emergency veterinarians whose goal is to ensure longevity and limit any discomfort for the donors throughout their donation experience, according to Dascomb. If at any time the donor shows signs of discomfort, staff end the session immediately.

Just like people, dogs have different blood types and need specific blood products. The organization asks for a one-to two-year commitment, and dogs are asked to donate regularly on a monthly basis. Dogs’ lifestyles don’t change, experts say, but they do receive added benefits of annual blood and infectious disease screening.

“We are actively working to improve our ability to meet the ever-increasing demand for veterinary blood and blood products,” said Casey Mills, NAVBB Director. “Through our ongoing community efforts and monthly donation opportunities, we are looking to raise awareness and pet donation contributions to
ensure that no pet dies due to a lack of blood availability.”

If you’d like more information about how your pet can become a donor, visit navbb.com.

Dawn Klavon is a contributing writer for Prince William Living

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