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Sharp Health News

What happens to your body when you give blood? (infographic)

Oct. 5, 2017

Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood donation. First-time donors can sometimes feel nervous about the process, which is why we asked Dr. Kristen Rice, a hematology and oncology doctor affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group, to share some facts and tips about this lifesaving act.

What happens to your body when you give blood? (infographic) Donating blood saves lives. But the act of donating blood can be daunting. Will it hurt? Can they take too much? How does the blood come back? We break down the process – and highlight the importance of becoming a donor. “A blood transfusion can make a sick patient feel better, or it can literally save a person’s life,” says Dr. Kristin Rice, a hematology/oncology doctor affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group. “Donating is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to help a patient in need. All you have to do is hold up your arm, and you can be a hero.” Measurements matter. When you donate blood, the tech will take 1 pint – and your body will begin making new blood immediately. There are 12 pints of blood in the male body and 10 pints of blood in the female body. Just 1 pint of blood is taken during a donation. Blood’s magical makeup. Blood is made up of four components, each having a specific job in your body. All four can be extracted, but only three can be donated. Plasma is the liquid component of the blood. It transports blood cells where they need to go, and has clotting factors to help stop bleeding. Plasma is given to very sick or seriously injured patients – who have lost a lot of blood – to help stop bleeding. Red blood cells help carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, and return carbon dioxide from the body to the lungs. Red blood cells are given to replace blood lost due to trauma, or to help a patient who doesn’t produce enough of their own blood due to bone marrow disorders, cancer or chemotherapy. White blood cells protect the body from infection by viruses and bacteria. White blood cells are removed from donated blood and not used. If transfused, they can attack the recipient’s tissue. Platelets help the blood clotting process by gathering at the site of an injury and forming a platform for new tissue. Combined with plasma, platelets help stop bleeding. Process makes perfect. Blood production after donation is an intricate, get extraordinary thing. Here’s how it works: Blood is drawn for donation. Your body senses the loss. Your bone marrow produces blood cells and platelets. These elements combine with plasma to form blood. The gift of blood. Every 2 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood donation. Visit to learn more about giving the gift of life.

As part of Sharp Lends a Hand, Sharp HealthCare is committed to collecting 1,300 units of blood for the San Diego community in 2019. To support this effort, visit to find a donation center or mobile blood drive near you. Mention Sharp's code SHRP to support the 2019 goal.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Rice about blood donation for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at .

View the printable version of this infographic.

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