One Drop at a Time
Ashlynn Smith, Division 2, 12th grade

1.68 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer or a similar terminal illness in 2016. Sickle cell anemia will affect more than 100,000 citizens and 1,000 newborn children in the United States alone. Every couple of seconds, a new, bloodied patient in critical condition enters the emergency room with a life threatening injury, awaiting a donation that any human can give, regardless of race, income, religion, nationality, size, or shape. Nearly 40 percent of the population is eligible and in ideal health to donate blood (American Red Cross), but because it cannot yet be synthetically manufactured, the demand is skyrocketing. The benefits of the benefaction far outweigh the costs, for donating blood costs no money to the donor (some even receive monetary compensation) and requires very little time, the two primary excuses as to why many people refuse to contribute to charitable causes. To better society is to improve the quality of life for others, therefore, saving lives via blood and plasma donations should be strongly considered as a charitable action to perform throughout ones adulthood. Every blood type has the potential to save lives, advance medical technologies, and offers essential benefits to the donors themselves to ultimately make the world a better place.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, each year, nearly five million Americans require a blood transfusion for various reasons, including cancer, anemia, and even car accidents, which could demand up to 100 pints of blood. My grandfather, for example, who turns 84 in December, recently received a transfusion due to the severity of the anemia he has battled for twenty years. These types of transfusions for patients like my grandfather yield greater numbers of red blood cells that carry oxygen-rich hemoglobin, platelets that provoke clotting and eventual healing, and plasma, which is the liquid portion of the blood that transports these clotting factors. The life-saving role of this connective tissue in the human body can be the sole source of survival for countless victims of violent crime, reckless driving, and extreme illness. Not only does this generosity of the donors increase survival rates in tragic accidents and otherwise deadly ailments, but also elevates the security and hope for many families and friends knowing that selfless donors have bettered humanity by giving a gift whose value could never be returned: life.

The exploding demand and the increased number of purposes for blood and plasma donations have led to revolutionary advancements in collecting the life-saving material such as automated donations, which utilize a smaller, more precise needle and the ability for one short extraction to benefit multiple patients rather than just one. Instead of gathering all blood components, oxygenated cells, plasma, and platelets, automated donation extracts only what is most needed. Typically during the non-automated process, it would require six donors to supply enough of the needed component to benefit only one patient. In addition to a less painful procedure and more efficient and useful results, the waiting period before the next donation is 112 days, longer than the previous method, allowing for fewer trips to the donation center and less stress on the body and mind, increasing the likelihood for a greater number of Americans to participate. In addition to more efficient drawing methods, synthetic blood cells, platelets, and plasma are in developmental stages and could potentially enter the medical field for regular use in the coming decades after years of experimentation.

In addition to the life-saving blood transfusions for the patient, blood and plasma donors also reap the benefits of donating. Before blood is drawn, a mini check-up is performed to examine blood pressure, search for indolent diseases, and identify any infections that could potentially transform into a serious problem. By being informed of these symptoms before they escalate, severe illness and even early death can be prevented. Additionally, various elements of cardiac health improve and in turn reduce risks of cancer, heart attacks, and stroke. This means while helping others, one also helps him or herself, which could incentivize a greater number of volunteers to participate rather than the mere ten percent of the population participating today. A lower cholesterol level, replenishment of blood, and psychological rejuvenation are among countless other perks of performing a good deed and knowing the positive impact on the community that this person has so thoughtfully created. Blood donation elevates morale and improves physical health and mental stability of more than one person, which proves the dramatically positive effects of donating blood in the community.

The question of how one can make the world a better place can be answered in an infinite number of ways. Some may value the environment, others human life, and some even animal rights. What is astonishing about blood donation is that it directly spawns any and every form of charity and goodwill because by saving millions of human lives, these patients will potentially aspire to better society through their own means. Making the world a better place in any respect can be made possible and increasingly prevalent through blood donation. One person cannot change the world on his or her own, but surely can make a world of difference to countless human lives, one drop of blood at a time.
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