What Can Your Donated Blood, Organs and Placenta Do?

Category: Posted on: 07/12/18 8:53 PM

A nurse standing above a young woman, assisting her in the blood donation process.

We’re going to be honest with you – blood is a big deal. So, with our Blood Drive coming up on July 18th, we’d love to give you an idea of what your blood can do when you donate it. While we’re at it, let’s do the same for organ and placenta donations, too.

Let’s get started.

Blood Donation – What Can Blood Do?

To begin, let’s talk about what your donated blood is going to do for the person who receives it.  To understand this, you need to understand what happens to the blood after it’s donated.

Blood Components

Red blood cells, platelets, white blood cells and plasma all comprise blood. They all have completely different uses and can be used to treat a large number of conditions.

 

White Blood Cells

White blood cells are the cells that fight infection. These transfusions are often given to patients with life-threatening infections whose ordinary defenses also don’t respond to antibiotics.

Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells contain Hemoglobin, which transfers oxygen to bodily tissues and carries the resulting carbon dioxide to the lungs.

So they usually treat anemia – a condition that lowers a person’s hemoglobin levels.

Conditions that can result in anemia include:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Red Cells breaking down in Newborns
  • Sickle Cell diseases
  • Cancer

…And more.

Blood transfusions that replaces heavy blood loss also utilize red blood cells.

Plasma

This is the fluid that carries blood cells and other components in the blood. It contains a large amount of different proteins and substances. These are usually important ingredients in various procedures.

Plasma has the following (and more) helpful components:

  • Clotting Factors: Used to treat diseases that cause blood to not clot properly, and hemophilia.
  • Immunoglobulins: Antibodies that help to protect against infection.
  • Albumin: Protein useful for treating liver and kidney diseases.

Platelets

These are very important in clotting blood. They clump together to stop bleeding after injury.

Their uses include:

  • Treating leukemia.
  • Following transplants of chemotherapy.
  • Treating bone marrow failure.

Blood Donation Requirements

Specific guidelines vary from center to center, so we’re just going to give some of the general Blood Donation Requirements, and you can check unyts.org for more info!

Whole Blood and Platelet Donations

The requirements for this donation are a little more lax than the other:

  • Minimum Age: 17 years (though 16 year olds can donate whole blood only with a Unyts parental consent form signed).
  • No Maximum Age.
  • Minimum of 110 Pounds.
  • No Minimum Height

Double Red Cell Donations

  • Minimum Age: 17 years.
  • No Maximum Age.
  • Males: At least 5’1″ and 130lbs or greater.
  • Females: At least 5’5″ and 150lbs or greater.

There are also a fairly long list of disqualifications on the untys.org site. Don’t let this discourage you, however! Blood donation is very important, and every drop counts.

Organ Donation Facts

There’s a lot to know about Organ Donations, so we’re going to break it down a bit – starting with what organs can be donated and when.

What Organs Can You Donate?

We’re going to divide this into what organs can be donated when the donor is deceased versus alive. There will be some cross-over.

Deceased Organ Donations:

  • 2 Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Heart
  • Intestines
  • Pancreas
  • 2 Lungs

Living Organ Donations:

  • 1 Kidney
  • One portion of the Liver
  • A section of the Pancreas
  • One portion of Intestine
  • 1 Lung

Changing Your Donor Status

You absolutely can change your donor status if you change your mind. That said, make sure to inform everyone in your family of this change.

Who Can Donate Organs?

Basically anyone can become an organ donor. It doesn’t necessarily matter your medical condition while you’re alive. What’s being taken into account is your condition at the time you pass.

Donations and Funerals

Another concern some people have with a Deceased Organ Donations is that it will make it impossible to have an open casket funeral. This is, again, not the case.

Donation Age Limits

There are no limits on the age of a donor. As mentioned above, it’s at the time of death that the organs are evaluated for suitability. Anyone of any age should consult with their family and tell them of their decision to become a donor.

What Happens When an Organ Donor Dies?

This is a question that might be on some people’s minds. A lot of people worry when they hear about becoming an organ donor – “Will doctors treat me fairly?” The worry is that organ donors will be sacrificed to save other lives, but this absolutely is not the case. We’re going to break down the entire process of a Deceased Organ Donation, from the donor’s entry to the hospital to the donation itself:

1. Doctors and EMTs work to save your life.

This is where a lot of people worry. Doctors and Emergency Responders will absolutely work their hardest to make sure you live, just like any other patient.

2. The Doctors Confirm Brain Death

Brain Death is the conformed irreversible and total loss of brain function. While their body may still be functioning, the donor (in this state) is no longer experiencing neurological activity within their brain or brain stem.

There are a number of tests used to test for brain death, and 2 doctors unrelated to the transplantation must be involved in the tests and declare brain death. They can only continue with the donation until after the tests.

It’s worth noting that these would be the same tests performed if the donor had not become an organ donor.

3. Evaluation

The potential donor stays on a ventilator in order to support body functions. In this time, experts from an organ procurement organization will make their way to the hospital the donor is in. An OPO is a regional nonprofit that coordinates the process of donation. These specialists or specially trained hospital staff support the family through the donation process.

4. Finding a Match

This is fairly self-explanatory, but just as complicated. Patients who need organ donations are put on a registry by the United Network for Organ Sharing. This is the national organization that coordinates the transplants in the US.

UNOS then collects information about the patient – everything from social history to height and weight – to determine what the best match donor would be. At this point, that donor is purely theoretical. They determine whether immune systems, blood type and proteins are compatible, and much more.

Finally, when a donor comes up, UNOS generates a dynamic list that determines where and which patient the organs would be most effective with. Usually, priority is based on how long the patient has been waiting and where they’re located – but, if you’re a perfect match, they send you the organ regardless of either.

5. Transporting the Organ

This happens quickly – you’ve only got a limited amount of time to get the organs to the patient, after all. OPOs use couriers who are certified to take organs from hospital to hospital / to and from an airport.

6. The Transplant Occurs

This is the final part of the process! After transplant, it’s a matter of recovery for the patient. All information about the donor generally remains anonymous. It’s important to note: one donor can save far more than one life!

A doctor performing an ultrasound on a patient.

Placenta Donation After Birth

The Placenta may not seem like something you’d donate, but it actually has a ton of uses! Let’s run through the basics.

Who Can Donate Placenta?

Any expecting mother who receives a planned Cesarean section delivery. Also, there is no age limit.

Disqualifications From Placenta Donation

These include, but are not limited to, active cancers and infectious diseases.

Why Donate Your Placenta?

There are actually a large number of cellular components that make up placental tissue that have a huge potential to boost patient healing.

What Can Placenta Donations Do?

So, there are a lot of things that a donated Placenta can help with. These include the following:

  • Burns: Due to the Placenta’s primary function (helping babies grow), they’re great sources for healing use. One of the most common things that a donated Placenta is used for is to treat serious burns. This is especially good for ones that would otherwise be difficult to treat standardly.
  • Scar Tissue: According to Unyts, scar tissue can be used to reduce scar tissue. If a person has existing scar tissue, it can work to soften it.
  • Dental Problems: Injuries and diseases can affect the mouth in unexpected ways. However, Placenta tissue can be used during dental operations as grafts for the gums. This leads to faster healing, less pain and a shorter procedure.
  • Soft Tissue Damage: Donated Placenta can also help mend this form of damage from certain injuries. This speeds up the healing time for patients.

Blood, Organ and Placenta Donations are important…

These forms of donation can impact and even save lives. We want to encourage as many people to take part in at least one form of donation as we can. So, with that in mind, we would love it if you could come to our Blood Drive, coming up on July 18th.

We’ll be hosting some food trucks, and also will enter all presenting donors for a chance to win a raffle!

To Schedule an appointment today, visit the unyts blood donor website and enter sponsor code 000344. You could also contact Kristen Dempsey at KDempsey@OGAWNY.com

We also want to let you know that unyts does more than just blood drives! They also handle all of the forms of donation that we’ve mentioned above and they keep it all local, too. If you’re interested in any of this, check out the unyts main website to learn more!

We hope you have a wonderful day, and we look forward to seeing you at the Blood Drive!