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NMCP Asks All to Have a Heart and Become a Donor

By Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Johnson, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth
NMCP Asks All to Have a Heart and Become a Donor
Valentine’s Day is the day of the year that most people show love and affection they have for the special people in their life. 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, Armed Services Blood Program blood donor recruiter for the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. “The products we collect not only help patients here, but they also help our men and women downrange.”

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. 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. When there are cardiac cases in the operating room we have to have at least two platelet products set aside,” said Judith Barnes, an apheresis clinical nurse specialist. “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 or surgical patients, to military members with battlefield injuries, and 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 red blood cells 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.”

For more information on blood and platelet donation at the Naval Medical Center Blood Donor Center call 757-592-6275.

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 reports that each year, more than 12,000 people are diagnosed with diseases that require an infusion of stem cells; and over 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. If you match someone who is in need of tissue or transplant, you will be called for additional testing” Barnes said. “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, averages of 79 people receive organ transplants. However, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an average of 22 people dies each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place due to the shortage of donated organs.

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

NMCP challenges everyone to show their big hearts and sign up to be an organ donor or donate blood this Valentine’s season.

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.

This story was originally published on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System Feb. 13. Republished content may have been edited for length, clarity and to follow the ASBP style guidelines. View the original article here.