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United Blood Services staffers say there's no excuse for not donating


September 13, 2006

United Blood Services staff members have heard all the reasons that people don't give blood.

They're afraid of needles. They think they're too old. They faint at the sight of blood. Their one little donation “wouldn't make an impact.”

Or, that they “need all their blood.”

People do “need all their blood,” but that shouldn't be a reason to shy away from sharing the gift of life, according to Diana Mass, director and clinical professor of clinical laboratory sciences in the School of Life Sciences.

The human body, in its magical complexity, knows when a pint of donated blood is gone, and it immediately sends out an order for more.

“Red blood cells have a life span of three or four months, normally,” Mass says. “Billions of red blood cells die in our bodies each day. However, they are constantly being replenished by cells from our bone marrow. “Progenitor cells in the bone marrow produce new red blood cells – specifically, to deliver oxygen to our tissues – based on the body's needs. When we lose blood from a cut or more severe injury, these progenitor cells undergo cell division to replenish the lost cells in circulation.”

Every person's body knows exactly how many red blood cells it needs, “based on your needs to deliver oxygen to the tissues to carry on daily activities,” Mass says.

“When you donate blood, the body puts this mechanism into high gear and therefore, the bone marrow quickly responds to replenish the cells you have just donated,” she says.

Within several days to a week, the body will have replaced the lost cells.

And the pint of blood that the donor wanted to keep? It's on its way to save three lives.

To sign up as an ASU donor, visit the Web site (www.bloodhero.com) and type in “ASU” to find a list of upcoming blood drives.

Judith Smith, jps@asu.edu (480) 965-4821