A Different Type of Holiday Gift

Dennis Cooper, MDBy Dennis Cooper, MD

Along with traditional holiday gifts of toys, clothes and electronics, consider a different type of gift to give this year – the gift of good health through a blood donation. During the holidays and the winter period, blood donations tend to plunge due to inclement weather and because some donation locations are closed for brief or extended periods. This decline in blood donations could mean the difference between life and death.

Every two seconds, someone in the United States is in need of blood. With just one donation of a pint of blood, up to three lives can be saved.  In New Jersey, according to the state Department of Health, fewer than four percent of eligible residents donate regularly, resulting in the great need for blood donations in our state. 

There is no substitute for blood – only the human body can manufacture it. Blood also has a short shelf life, as red cells are perishable after 42 days. Certain ethnic groups are prone to certain blood types, and sometimes these blood types are in short supply. Blood is not only used during times of disaster and emergency – it is also used for regular treatment in a number of diseases including cancer. In treating patients in our Hematologic Malignancies and Blood and Marrow Transplant Programs at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey with blood-related cancers, I see firsthand the critical need of having certain blood types and blood products (like platelets) available for everyday use. Patients who are on a daily treatment regimen cannot afford to wait an extra day or two until their blood type becomes available.

Helping is simple, with the entire process taking under one hour. One must be 16 years of age or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health.  To find a donation center in your area or to learn more about how to set up a blood drive at your school or workplace, visit the state Department of Health ‘New Jersey Save3Lives’ webpage at: http://www.state.nj.us/health/njsave3lives/index.shtml.  It’s a gift you can develop into a new holiday tradition.

Dennis Cooper, MD, is the Co-Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and a member of the Hematologic Malignancies Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; and a professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

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