World Blood Donor Day: Dr. Dennis Williams shares expertise and advice for potential blood donors

Dr. Dennis Williams

World Blood Donor Day is celebrated annually on June 14 with the goal of raising awareness about the critical need for blood donors.

Doctors around the world use blood transfusions to save lives, and the demand for donors never ceases.

Blood, platelets and plasma cannot be artificially manufactured, so patients whose lives depend transfusions must rely on donations from their fellow citizens.

UK HealthCare’s Dr. Dennis Williams, who specializes in pathology and laboratory medicine, recently discussed the importance of blood donation, offered details about the process and advice to those who might be considering becoming a first-time donor.

How important is it for health systems to have an adequate supply of donated blood?

It is crucial. Every three seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. It is an essential product for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, traumatic injuries and more. Blood cannot be manufactured outside of the body and can only be stored for a limited time (platelets for seven days, red blood cells 42 days, frozen plasma 12 months), so volunteer donors are essential to maintaining a good blood supply. Blood must already be on the shelf for these treatments so lives can be saved.

Here in Kentucky, the Kentucky Blood Center services over 70 hospitals in over 90 counties and over 400 volunteer donors are needed every day. Without donors, Kentucky Blood Center cannot supply local area hospitals with the blood they need and local patients can’t get the treatment they need.

For those who have never donated blood before, what should they know about the process?

Blood donation is not painful and takes about an hour from start to finish. When you commit to donate blood, you will go through registration, health screening, the actual donation, and then refreshment.

During registration, you will be asked to present a valid photo ID and for you name, birth date, address, phone, email address, and other such information. After registering, you will be brought to screening. During screening, you will be asked to complete a confidential health questionnaire. This can also be answered prior to you visiting the blood center or blood drive on Kentucky Blood Center’s website. This questionnaire will ask you about your health, travel, and medical history — all which would pertain to your eligibility to donate blood.

After completing your questionnaire, you will receive a mini-physical. This physical includes a check of your pulse, temperature, blood pressure and hemoglobin. This process makes sure that you are healthy enough to donate. If you meet the medical requirements, you will proceed to the donation portion.

A phlebotomist — a specially-trained technician that draws blood — will clean your arm and prep you for donation. The needle stick itself feels just like if you pinched your inner arm. It is quick and relatively painless and the process of donating typically takes less than 10 minutes. Once you have completed your donation and feel well, you are released to the refreshment area where we ask you to wait 10-15 minutes and have a drink and snack. It’s important to replace fluids in your body and have a snack.

What are the benefits for the blood donor?

Donating blood may be healthy for your body and it saves lives. For many donors, it reduces stress and improves physical health. In addition, all donors receive a mini-physical which can give you an insight to your overall health without visiting the doctor.

Each donor can know that when they leave Kentucky Blood Center, they have just helped save up to three local lives.

Are there certain things that make people good candidates to become a blood donor? Are there certain factors that would cause someone to be ineligible to donate?

Certain factors that make people good candidates to become a blood donor may include being in good overall health, weighing at least 110 pounds and being at least 17 years old (16 with parental consent).

Certain factors that may make someone ineligible to donate blood would be too low of an iron level (low hemoglobin), feeling sick, certain medications, having certain types of cancer and other circumstances like recent surgery.

How should someone prepare to donate blood?

Eat iron-rich foods leading up to your donation. Make sure to get a full night’s rest prior to donating. Drink an extra glass (or two!) of water before and after your donation. Have a full meal (avoid fatty foods) and a salty snack before donating and wear comfortable clothing with sleeves that can be raised above the elbow. To save time, you can complete your health questionnaire on the Kentucky Blood Center website via QuickPass on the day of your donation. Remember to bring a photo ID.

To contact the UK HealthCare’s pathology and laboratory medicine department, call 859-323-5266.

To contact Kentucky Blood Center with questions or to schedule an appointment to donate, visit or call 859-276-2534.

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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