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Have a heart, become a donor

Air Force Senior Airman Hailey McFall, a fuels journeyman with the 182nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, donates blood in Peoria, Ill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer) Air Force Senior Airman Hailey McFall, a fuels journeyman with the 182nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, donates blood in Peoria, Ill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Valentine's Day is the day of the year most people show love and affection they have for the special people in their lives.

What many people may not know is Feb. 14 is also National Donor Day – a day to recognize those who show their love by donating or register as a donor.

"We are in need of donations all year long," said Ralph Peters, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth blood donor recruiter. "The products we collect not only help patients here, but they also help our men and women down range."

Millions of people in the United States have signed up to be donors, but there is still a significant gap between what is donated and what is required to help another person. All different types of medical donations are needed such as blood, platelets, organ, eye, body tissue and bone marrow. 

"Platelets have a shelf life of only five days; therefore we always need platelets," said Judith Barnes, an apheresis clinical nurse specialist. "When there are cardiac cases in the operating room, we have to have at least two platelet products set aside. Many of our patients who undergo cancer treatment and chemotherapy have extremely low platelet counts. Also, trauma victims need platelets desperately to help them resolve issues with their injuries. We are always in need."

According to the American Red Cross, an estimated 38 percent of the United States population is eligible to donate blood, but less than 10 percent actually do each year. Blood and blood products are used for patients of every age, and for many reasons including cancer, surgical patients, or military members with battlefield injuries, all depend on the daily blood donations.

"A single eligible donor can donate whole blood every eight weeks or platelets every two weeks," Barnes said. "When someone wants to donate, there will be a screening to determine eligibility."

There are four different blood groups: A, B, AB, and O. Type O Negative donors are also known as "universal donors," because Type O Negative RBCs can be given to anyone. For that reason, it is often used in emergency situations before a person's exact blood type can be determined.

"We are in need of donors of every type of blood," Peters said. "We also encourage people to be repeat donors if eligible."

To find more information on blood and platelet donation, visit the Armed Services Blood Program.

Similar to platelet and blood donors, there is usually shortage of donors signed up for the bone marrow and organ donor registries. 

The National Marrow Donor Program reported each year, more than 12,000 people are diagnosed with diseases which require an infusion of stem cells; and more than 70 percent are unable to find an appropriate match within their own family and will require an unrelated donor.

"To sign up for marrow donation, a cheek swab is done and sent in with your information and you are put into a registry," Barnes said. "If you match someone who is in need of tissue or transplant, you will be called for additional testing. I can't emphasize enough that in this day and age where we have all ethnicities, we need to have a broad spectrum of donors for the registry, so we try to get everybody to sign up."

The need for organ transplants is also real and donors are always needed. Each day, an average of 79 people receives organ transplants. However, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an average of 22 people dies each day waiting for transplants which can't take place due to the shortage of donated organs.

Registering as an organ donor can be done at your local Department of Motor Vehicles by selecting 'yes' to organ donation when you apply for your driver's license. 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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