In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we would like to relay a recent story from a patient encounter and challenge you to consider becoming a regular blood donor. Yesterday, Dan had the rewarding experience of donating blood directly to one of his HIV+ patients. This patient had a hemoglobin of 4 (it should be >13 and anything <7 usually results in major symptoms: fatigue, confusion, light-headedness, and shortness of breath, etc.), and his family lacks the financial resources to pay the $50 for a blood transfusion ($30 fee for the blood bank to screen the blood for HIV, Chagas, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C; $20 fee for the blood itself). Though many of his relatives live in different cities, they were contacted to see if they could come to donate blood.

In Bolivia, this is not an unfamiliar situation. Most patients receive blood from a relative who hears news of their family member’s illness and donates directly to the patient. This avoids the $20 blood fee, leaving the patient with only the $30 screening fee. However, donations from relatives aren’t always easy to match. My sister and I have different blood types from each other and from our parents. Though I could donate to her, she couldn’t donate to me (my blood type is O-, the universal donor, but the most selective recepient; the only blood type I can receive is O-). Thus, many patients rely on the generosity of both their family members and others in the population at-large.

We were glad for the opportunity to help one of our patients directly, and renewed our commitment to donating blood regularly. We also couldn’t help but wonder – how many of our friends and family donate blood on a regular basis? Do you donate? Judging by statistics, many of you do not. According to the Red Cross, only 3% of Americans donate blood. Three of every one hundred people donate.

If that doesn’t convict you, maybe these reasons to donate blood will:

(1) It’s a free way to help your fellow man

(2) You get a snack afterwards

(3) It’s the cheapest way to learn your blood type, total cholesterol (many blood centers report this), and STD status (in case you were worried)

(4) Because you might be the one who needs the blood someday!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Les extrañamos muchísimo!