Monday, April 10, 2006

Donating Blood With a CMV-Negative Sub-Factor

I have donated blood since I was in college. Since moving to Hawaii 13 years ago, however, I have often received a phone call from the Honolulu Blood Bank asking me to come in to make a donation. Sometimes they have told me that my blood was desparetely needed. Until this past week, however, they never told me why!

Since I have O+ Blood (which is the most common blood type in North America and Europe) I never felt as though my blood was particularly in demand. Yes, it is sometimes (mistakenly) referred to as the “universal donor” but what was it about my blood that seemed to merit special phone calls.

Well, it seems that my blood has a sub-category that marks it as CMV-Negative. According to the on-line Dr. Judith Feinberg,

“CMV negative" means you have never been infected with cytomegalovirus. For most people with healthy immune systems, infection with CMV or not is usually of little consequence, but people with damaged or immature (like newborns) immune systems are susceptible to life-threatening CMV infection. You are lucky.

According to the Puget Sound Blood Center, CMV-Negative blood is indicated for

-Premature Infants

-Infants Under 4-Weeks of Age and;

-Patients Requiring Intrauterine Transfusions.

CMV-Negative Blood is also indicated for CMV-Negative patients in the following categories:

-Bone marrow or organ transplant recipients (if the marrow or organ donor is also CMV negative)

-Potential candidates for transplant

-AIDS or HIV infected patients

-Patients who have congenital immune deficiency

-Patients undergoing splenectomy, and

-Pregnant women

Today there was a need for 27 pints of blood for two people (one an infant?) undergoing open heart surgery and another who was having an amputation. Two of these three patients were, I was told, “bleeders.” The need for CMV-Negative blood, in combination with my O+ status, made me a Very Important Donor on their list. So, of course, since I haven’t given since January, I made a 2:00 pm appointment, took some church work along with me, drove downtown and give them a pint.

Afterwards, the donut they gave me tasted good, but not anywhere near as good as I felt from contributing my small but vital share of the “gift of life.”

For a blow-by-blow description (complete with photos) of what it's like to donate a pint of blood you can check out a previous post here.

Afterwards, be sure to schedule an appointment to make a donation yourself. Who knows, your blood may be the exact kind that someone needs in your neighborhood right now!