In the NICU, Blood Equals Life

January 9, 2017
blod transfusion, blood donor, NICU, preemie

My son’s first blood transfusion at 6 days old

The first thing you’re staring at in the picture is that scalp IV. It looks terrible, painful, and generally uncomfortable. Rest assured it is the best IV for a tiny preemie like my 24-weeker. They can’t move their head very much, so it doesn’t wiggle out like the ones in their arms and legs. My little feisty guy would flail his arms and legs and work out his IVs, sometimes within a few hours. The scalp IV gave the fragile veins in his limbs a break and didn’t hurt any more than any other IV. Now, focus on what was going into that scalp IV. That’s blood, actually his very first life saving blood transfusion. In fact, it was the first of nine and before you ask, no, he does not have a blood condition.

How often do you think about the blood in your body? As an adult who has never had a transfusion, the only time I thought about blood is when I was bleeding or when one of my children was bleeding. That all changed when I had my micro-preemie. He was born so small that he only had an ounce (about two tablespoons) of blood in his entire body. One of the main functions of blood is to carry oxygen throughout the body. For a preemie with very little lung capacity, the amount and quality of blood becomes a major concern. When the NICU takes labs in a child that small, they have to put blood back. Every drop counts.

January is Blood Donor Awareness Month. Preemies are not the only group that benefits from donations of blood and platelets. Blood is essential to our premature little ones, but it is also a necessity around the globe for all types of life-saving procedures. My own son had nine blood transfusions in his 128 day NICU stay. Eight of those came in the first 45 days. It is estimated that a blood transfusion is needed every two seconds in the United States alone. A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood. Blood transfusions are life-saving procedures, and donors are always needed.

An estimated 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood; however, only 10% of the population donate. The number of blood donors is about 6.8 million. 13.6 million units of blood are collected yearly in the U.S.1 That means that most donors are donating twice per year. One unit of blood given can be used for several recipients.

Donating blood doesn’t take much from you, but it will save at least one life.

If you want to become a blood donor, visit the American Red Cross to find a location.


1 “Blood Facts and Statistics.” American Red Cross. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2017.