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Blood - The Gift of Life

 As I look forward to a new year approaching, I reflect on this past year giving thanks for many blessings of good health and taking note that January is National Blood Donor Month. Most people wouldn’t consider this important unless the need for a transfusion or blood products has touched them personally. I can remember my father giving blood regularly and occasionally being summoned to the hospital for an emergency donation for someone who needed his blood type. Once it was to transfuse an infant, another time a young person who was involved in a serious automobile accident. I can remember the urgency of those phone calls.

The need for blood is always present. Did you know that every three seconds someone is in need of blood? Every minute patients use more than 36 units of blood or blood products. Each day, 40,000 units of blood are used in this country. The demand for blood is great and our nations supply needs constant replenishment. It is estimated that 8 million people donate blood in the United States each year.

Who can donate blood? A donor must be healthy and at least 17 years of age. Persons 65 or older and in good health may also donate with the approval of the blood bank physician. A person weighing at least 110 pounds can donate a unit of blood as often as every 8 weeks.

The procedure is simple. A record of the persons name, address and medical history is taken and their identity is verified. Educational materials are provided that describe diseases that can be spread by transfusion. They are then asked about any travel outside of the United States and/or events that could indicate a possible infection that could be transmitted during transfusions. Next, temperature, pulse, blood pressure and weight are recorded and a small amount of blood is taken from the prospective donor’s finger to measure the amount of red blood cells and hemoglobin present.

Providing that all of the information and testing is satisfactory, the donor is then escorted to the donation area where trained personnel will clean and swab the site where the needle will be inserted with an antiseptic solution. Then, using new and sterile needles and collection equipment, the blood is collected. The procedure usually takes less than 10 minutes. After the donation is completed, a snack of juice, crackers or cookies is served to supply the donor with quick energy.

It is important to obtain a recent and accurate medical history from any prospective donor. It protects not only the donor but also the person who will receive the blood. Many safeguards are imposed on the blood from donors before it can be used for a transfusion. The blood is typed and seven separate screening tests are used to check for possible infections from hepatitis, AIDS,

HTLV and syphilis. A sample of the blood is then tested against the blood of the recipient - a process called cross-matching.

If you are contemplating elective surgery, planning ahead with your physician can help to determine if you are likely to need blood. You can donate blood for yourself - a procedure known as autologous blood transfusion. After a thorough screening, blood bank personnel will consult with your physician to determine if your medical condition will allow you to donate blood safely for yourself. In many cases, autologous blood will meet your needs, however, should you not use all of your donated blood during your hospitalization, your blood may be used by another patient - depending on the hospital policy. You can usually make a donation every 3-4 days up to three days before your surgery, but each autologous donation takes from one to two hours.

Still need some good reasons to become a donor? Consider these

1. Giving blood is safe. It is not possible to catch any disease by giving blood.

2. Giving Blood is easy. Registration, a simple medical history questionnaire, a mini-physical, then you roll up your sleeve - a brief pinch and 5-8 minutes later, the donation is over.

3. Giving blood is fast. The entire life-saving process takes less than one hour.

4. Giving blood saves lives. Because blood donations are processed into a variety of blood components, each donation can save the lives of as many as four people.

5. Giving blood could save your life. Your free mini-physical checks for anemia, temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure.


Blood centers often run short of Blood types O and B because they are in such great demand. Consider giving the gift of life this year. Call your local hospital:

in Holyoke - Holyoke Hospital 534-2591

in Northampton - Cooley Dickinson Hospital 582-2185



Pink Eye



 Pink eye or conjunctivitis is a very common form of eye infection. School children are prone to such infection and are often banned from school until the eye has cleared up to avoid spreading this highly contagious infection to other students.

What exactly is conjunctivitis? The transparent membrane lining the eyeball is known as the conjunctiva. This membrane protects the eye from foreign objects. When the conjunctive becomes irritated or infected, it is called conjunctivitis. There are several distinct types of conjunctivitis.

Viral conjunctivitis is usually associated with an upper respiratory tract infection. Like the common cold, there is no cure for viral conjunctivitis and it usually runs its course in about 3 weeks. This form of pink eye is highly contagious and spreads easily. To reduce the spread of this disease, use a disinfectant on surfaces such as counter tops, door knobs, etc. and avoid touching the face with your hands. Hand washing is highly recommended.

Allergic conjunctivitis has symptoms that include itchy, watery eyes and swollen eyelids. It is seasonal – usually worst during hay fever season. It is treated with cold compresses and artificial tears.

The symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis are redness, tearing, irritation, and a discharge that sometimes causes the eyelids to stick together. It usually affects only one eye, but it does spread easily. Common bacterial causes are staphylococcus and streptococcus. The treatment consists of antibiotic eye drops or ointments.

How can you tell if you have conjunctivitis? Ask yourself the following questions.

Is there a discharge from the eye? Is there any crusting on the eyelids? Do the eyelids stick together? Is there any eye pain? Are the eyelids swollen? Are your eyes sensitive to light? Are the eyelids itchy? Is there redness of the eye? Is there a “sandy” or “gritty” feeling in the eye?

If you have answered yes to two or more of these questions, you should have them checked by your physician for a more complete diagnosis.


What steps should you take if you do have conjunctivitis?


1. Keep your hands away from your eyes.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after using eye medications.

3. Do not share towels, washcloths, cosmetics, or eye drops with anyone.

4. Seek medical treatment promptly.

Sometimes, during the examination of the eye, the physician may take a culture of the drainage to determine if the cause is a particular bacterium. On rare occasions, surgery may be needed to open clogged tear ducts.

Other non-infectious forms of conjunctivitis, such as those caused by chemicals or allergies, can be treated with over the counter measures. Those suffering from chemical irritants in swimming pools should wear eye goggles for protection from the chlorinated water. Others find relief from the symptoms of allergy caused conjunctivitis by using over the counter eye drops.


                                                                                                                                                                             Holyoke Sun Article for9/8/1999


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