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National Blood Donor Month is here, and I wonder, what does the thought of blood conjure for you? There are more references to blood throughout history and scattered throughout popular culture, than references to food or air: blood libel, thicker than water, power in the blood, blood of the lamb, blood of our forefathers, blood brothers, blood feud, true blood, blue blood, and, of course, cold blooded.

ASBP Thank YouThe list is endless. Or maybe not, as Google has “blood” down for 338 million hits with “food” at 774 million and “air” at 917 million. Nevertheless, the notion of blood is visceral and powerful, perhaps because it is also nearly interchangeable with the concept of life.

According to the Web site How Stuff Works, blood is the most tested part of the body. Doctors, therefore, see blood as a marvelous detective tool of sorts, but also as a kind of superhero when faced with a patient suffering blood loss. As most people know, there is no substitute for blood, so transfusion science, or hematology, is utterly vital to any emergency medical set up. Once again, blood easily equates to life.

People who are so badly hurt or so ill that they need blood transfusions certainly see blood as life; and it’s very simple to understand that their loved ones do as well.

It is also easy, then, to see why an entire month at the beginning of every year is set aside to honor and thank blood donors. Musing on the part that blood—which makes up nearly eight percent of a person's body weight—plays in our society, what with vampires running amuck and blood memorialized in song, story and rhyme, rounding up this elixir should be simple. But it’s not, and there are many reasons.

To begin with, the collection process itself is regulated and painstakingly monitored to ensure the safety of both the donor and the recipient. Transfusion science has come a long way, and so whole blood, once collected, is manufactured into components to more efficiently use the product and treat the patient. This is referred to as component therapy. Therefore, from the arm of the donor, to the arm of the patient, the collection, manufacturing and transfusion process is rigorous and tightly controlled; and requires highly trained staff, specialized equipment and proper lab conditions.

Without donors, this whole process would be fruitless. And donors, though in high demand, are not as plentiful as was once assumed. A study that came out in 2007 from the University of Minnesota found that instead of the 60 percent of Americans who were previously thought to be eligible to donate, only 38 percent are, in fact, eligible blood donors.

Again, to ensure the safety of our nation’s blood supply, the Food and Drug Administration, the governing body for blood and blood products in the U.S., has rules in place that determine donor eligibility or criteria. As new blood borne pathogens or potential threats to the safety of the patient being transfused, are discovered, more safeguards are put in place continuing to decrease the donor pool. Even so, of the percentage of Americans who are eligible, a little less than 10 percent give blood. And that means that those who do give blood are responsible for savings the lives of thousands and thousands of people, mostly strangers.

This is why here at the Armed Services Blood Program we go all out during National Blood Donor Month to say thank you. Many of our 22 blood donor centers here at home and around the world hold special ceremonies throughout the month of January where plaques, military coins and certificates are awarded to those who make it part of their routine to give blood.

Military leadership attends these ceremonies to say thank you in person and we write stories, make videos, posters and t-shirts to honor our donors and to say thank you loud and long. We know that our donors, along with all of those who would happily donate but cannot and so find other ways to support blood drives and get the word out, are very special people. We salute and honor you during National Blood Donor Month.

Like Atlas, you hold the world of blood supply on your shoulders. Come on Dracula, say it with us! Bless you and thank you!!! The power of blood truly belongs to donors.

To find out more about the Armed Services Blood Program or to schedule your appointment to donate visit us online:

To talk to the ASBP or get up to the date news visit us here: or

By Julie Oliveri | Armed Services Blood Program

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