PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
January 21, 2015

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

National Blood Donor Month: An Opportunity to Make a Lifesaving Difference

January, National Blood Donor Month, provides people an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and donate blood or pledge to give blood at a time of the year when this lifesaving commodity is typically in short supply.

Nine out of 10 people will need blood at some time in their lives due to illness, to treat an injury or during surgery. There is no artificial substitute for blood. A unit of blood from a single donor can save up to three lives.

"People can make a real difference in other people's lives by donating blood," said Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd. "National Blood Donor Month is the perfect time to thank New Jersey donors for giving the gift of life through blood, platelet and plasma donations, and to encourage first time donors to participate in blood drives through their workplace, school or community."

New Jersey's blood centers encourage donors to explore a range of donation options by contacting the nearest blood center and asking what the greatest needs are for donations at any given time.

Blood donations normally decline during the busy holidays and during cold weather. Frigid temperatures and wintery weather make travel difficult and may force blood drive cancellations. Illnesses, including flu, which is especially prevalent this season, also reduce the number of people able to donate blood.

Whole blood donation is the most common type of blood donation. It usually takes about an hour, though the actual donation takes about 8-10 minutes during which approximately a pint of "whole blood" is given. People are eligible to donate 'whole blood' every 56 days.

Another option is platelet donation. Cancer patients, bone marrow transplant recipients and burn victims require multiple platelet transfusions. Having a steady supply of platelets - a key clotting component of blood - is important because unlike whole blood, which has a shelf life of 42 days, platelets must be transfused within five days of donation.

Plasma, the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed, is often used in trauma situations. It is also the essential starting material needed to manufacture therapies that help thousands of people worldwide with rare, chronic diseases to live healthier, productive and fulfilling lives.

A fourth option is double red cell donation similar to whole blood donation except a special machine is used to allow the donor to safely donate two units of red blood cells in one donation while receiving back the plasma and platelets. Red blood cells are the most frequently used blood component and are needed by almost every type of patient requiring transfusion. Each procedure lets the donor give more of that portion of the blood that is needed most by patients.

National Blood Donor Month has been celebrated since 1970 to raise awareness of the need for blood during the winter and throughout the year. To learn more about blood donation and to find a blood center near you, visit www.njsave3lives.com.

Last Reviewed: 1/21/2015