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Donors Make Armed Services Blood Program Possible

By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2015 – Without donors, there would be no Armed Services Blood Program, Navy Capt. Roland Fahie, the program’s director, said today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alexander Ramirez, assigned to Marine Corps Security Force Battalion, donates blood during a blood drive for the Puget Sound Blood Center at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Wash., Jan. 22, 2015. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Seth Coulter
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

National Blood Donor Month falls in January, Fahie said, which is the heart of a difficult season for blood organizations, as donations slow during the winter holidays. As the month draws to a close, he said, it is particularly important to recognize the donors who make the program possible.

The Armed Services Blood Program is unique among blood organizations, the director said.

Getting Blood to Where It’s Needed

“Our strength is actually getting blood to where no other agency can,” he said. “We actually are the ones that are capable -- because we have the assets to support our deployed troops all over the world -- whether it's a combat mission, whether it's a humanitarian mission, whether it's a military treatment facility overseas somewhere, we can get blood to wherever it needs to go.”

Most healthy adults are eligible to donate blood, according to the ASBP website. For travel, medical or other donation restrictions, interested personnel should visit http://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/Donors/can_i_donate.aspx.

Military personnel, their dependents, federal civilians and contractors are all eligible to donate to their local ASBP location. Even those with no connection to the military can donate to the ASBP, Fahie said.

One Donation ‘Can Save Several Lives’

Blood donation is critical, he said, “Because one unit of blood can save several lives.”

Blood can be separated into three components -- red blood cells, platelets and plasma, Fahie said.

“We make and we process different products from ... whole blood,” he said. “We can make red cells to support somebody that's anemic, we have plasma for somebody who has clotting factor deficiencies and needs factors to help with stabilization, and then also we have platelets that we can get from those products, and then there's also other concentrates that we can manufacture from that blood product that we can give to patients that are ill or injured.”

Since blood products have a limited shelf life, there is a constant need for donors. Red blood cells can be stored for 35 to 42 days, while platelets must be used within 5 days.

Donors are Essential

The whole blood donation process takes about 30 to 40 minutes, including completing a donor questionnaire and a brief interview, Fahie said.

Donating platelets is a bit more complex, he said. During platelet donation, platelets are removed from whole blood by a machine, and the remaining products are re-infused back into the donor.

“It's important for every donor to know that, no matter what, we are the one that is responsible for ensuring that our war fighters and their beneficiaries have blood and blood products when they're critically wounded or they're ill,” Fahie said.

“We as the Armed Services Blood program appreciate all the support that we get from the donors, because wherever we need to get blood to, we won't have a program if we don't have a donor.

“Our reliability and our strength really are with the donors,” he said.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews

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