When studying the systems of the human body every student is amazed by, what I see, as a miracle. Just take a moment to think about it. Billions of cells alike and different working in harmony, more times than not, that create a vessel for the soul and allows life.
Today I would like to discuss one of these systems and how we can support this miracle for others known and unknown. The system I would like to discuss is the circulatory system specifically what it carries, blood.
For some just hearing the word blood will cause discomfort. Seeing blood might send some into hysterics or even cause unconsciousness. Others, however, are undisturbed. I am fortunately one who is undisturbed when viewing blood in a predictable manner… chaotic blood loss is very upsetting.
Oxygen, nutrients, antibodies, clotting factors, and waste are carried through out the body by our blood. It is carried through arteries, veins, and capillaries that make up what we call the circulatory system. Organs specifically the liver and kidneys clean our blood. The lungs give life sustaining oxygen to the blood and release useless gases as we exhale.
The average male carries about 12 pints of blood while the average female has approximately 9 pints. Generally blood makes up about 7% of our body weight.
Blood is made up of cells suspended in plasma. There are red blood cells, the largest group, white blood cells and platelets. Hemoglobin, an oxygen carrying protein in red blood cells gives blood its color. Oxygenated blood is bright red, deoxygenated blood is a very dark red. It is the deoxygenated blood that makes our veins appear blue. The light reflecting from our skin along with the brain’s reading of visual input results in the blue appearance.
Although our blood is basically the same there is a presence or absence of a variety of antigens. Antigens signal the immune system to create antibodies, cells that attack invading cells or viruses. Hematologist, those that study blood, divide blood into eight types. When receiving blood you must get a compatible type or your body may attack the donated blood as an invader.
There are a variety of ways to give blood and a variety of organizations that will safely take your blood. The organization I like to work with is Michigan Blood miblood.org. This organization is extremely professional. The donor is interviewed, educated, properly attended to and treated respectfully. I am sad to say that I stopped donating for a while allowing a rude attendant from another organization discourage me. Working with Michigan Blood miblood.org has been an extremely positive experience.
Blood can be donated by drawing a single unit or by drawing parts of the blood through a process referred to as apheresis. Through this process only plasma, red blood cells, or platelets are donated. I do what is referred to as a ‘double red’. I donate two pouches of red blood cells. The pouches are only filled half way so that preservatives among other things can be added. Red blood cells are used for trauma cases, surgery, anemia, blood disorders and blood loss patients.
Apheresis is not much different than a traditional donation but for the fact that the tube from my arm carries blood to a machine that separates the red blood cells by spinning the blood and carries them to the pouch….a draw. After a short draw there is a return as the other components of my blood are returned. This process is repeated many times. The process takes about a half an hour. There is no pain just fascination and the mystery of who will receive my blood.
STORY WITH A HAPPY ENDING
A high school sports teammate of my son’s, a young man and his family, have made their home in a small town not far from Traverse City. It is nice to have people who knew you down state nearby. We became aware that during his wife’s delivery of their third child she experienced complications that nearly took her life. After seven pints of blood and skilled doctoring she is well. The family decided to have a blood drive to express their gratefulness and to reinforce the need for blood donation. My husband and I decided to make the trip and donate. This is where I became acquainted with Michigan Blood miblood.org.
I believe it was the tee-shirts the family wore (giving me goosebumps as I write) that had a profound effect on me thus encouraging me to begin donating again. Mom’s tee-shirt simply said, ‘Blood Saved My Life‘, Dad’s, ‘Blood Saved My Wife‘ and the boys, ‘Blood Saved My Mother.‘ There is really no more to be said.
If donating blood is something you can do….please make some time.