From one soldier to another; blood donors are always in need
October 2, 2012
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - April showers may bring flowers, but it also ushers in an increased need for blood donors. Blood donors serve a very important purpose in Afghanistan and all eligible personnel are encouraged to be pre-screened.
"Screening is important because it drastically reduces the amount of time it takes to get a unit of blood from one soldier into another on the battlefield to save a life," explained Sgt. David Sudduth, a medical lab technician with the 440th Blood Detachment, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Service members can walk into their local Forward Surgical Team or aid station to determine if they are eligible to donate this life saving gift. While not everyone will be eligible, as there are a lot of criteria that are in place to protect the donor and patients, local FST or lab representatives will help donors determine if they are eligible.
"We need to make sure the donors are as healthy as humanly possible because we don't have [the Food and Drug Administration] in theater to make sure we're not transfusing a patient with a potential disease, so that's where the screening process comes in," said Sudduth.
When a donor volunteers to be screened, they won't be donating blood that day. Instead, a lab representative or trained medic will draw several blood samples that will be sent back to the United States for further testing. It takes nearly a month to get results back, so it is important that potential donors have more than two months left on station. When the lab results are returned, if the donor is found eligible to donate, their name and blood type will be recorded in a database and they will be called up only if there is a need.
The walking blood bank takes all blood types, though whole blood has to be type specific. If a patient with AB blood is in need of a transfusion, a call will be put out specifically for AB blood types to report to their local FST or aid station.
"The walking blood bank is vitally important in the event we run through all of our [blood] we have on hand to save lives," said Sudduth. "Pretty much, it acts as a stopgap solution until we can get more [blood] in."
Eligible donors are able to supply up to a unit of whole blood (550 ml.) once every 56 days.
"It's important that we have a large supply of donors because if you get a person who takes a large amount of units and you blow through half your donor pool that's not going to do you any good for the next person who may need some [blood]," said Sudduth.
So now that spring has sprung, it is important that all service members spring into action and get screened sooner than later. That way if there is a need for a whole blood drive, your ability to donate without delay may save a life. So report to your local FST or aid station right away and see if you are eligible.
"Anybody that wants to be a potential donor, we need you," Sudduth added. "Thanks for saving a life."