July 12, 2011

Every Drop Counts

Below is the last speech I gave to Toastmasters Boise Club 61.  I had to refer to my notes three times during the speech even though I thought I had it down  after a couple hours of practice.  I noticed that I usually run afoul when referencing numbers.  Since I make a deliberate effort normally not to memorize numbers, trying to do so for a speech is problematic.

The responses from club members was rather unexpected.  I had badly flubbed my speech such that a good chunk of information got muddled and some of the important part, from a organizational/thematic standpoint go removed from the speech and barely added in as part of a rather sloppy conclusion.  Of course I tend to gloss over the part where my audience doesn't know my speech so they don't know how badly I mangled it.  My evaulator caught a piece of it and mentioned that part of my speech should have come before the conclusion, but he really liked how the beginning went.  I need to remember to put some of the figures onto a note card I can fit in my hand if I need to reference numbers in a "memorized" speech.

Every Drop Counts!

Did you know that human blood is a vital medical resource that cannot be manufactured or harvested?  In the next few minutes I will tell you why blood is so valuable and why “every drop counts”.  I’ll try to put the need for blood donation into perspective and tell you what you can do to ensure that you and your community are protected.
Questions: In the last year, how many of you have donated blood?  How many have donated twice or more?*
Using some 2001-2002 statistical data, and updating for current usage trends, within the next year, four members of Boise Club 61 will require hospitalization and one of our group will require three pints of blood.  On the surface it seems we have more than enough donations within our group to cover our needs, until you factor in that whole blood has a very short shelf life of 3 to 5 days.  Assuming it was possible for Club 61 to meet all of our own blood needs, every member would have to donate a pint of blood at the maximum rate allowed just to break even.  For our group, “every drop counts”.
We are fortunate in that we don’t have to provide our own blood supply within the Club, but we do have to supply blood within the community at large.  As we expand our group beyond the Club to incorporate our families, our friends, our neighbors, the margin between having enough blood and falling short widens, but still “every drop counts”.
Blood is perishable.  Whole blood is usually broken down into three components: platelets, red blood cells, and plasma.  These components of a single pint of blood, referred to as a unit (which weighs about one pound) have shelf-lives that range from 3-5 days for platelets to a year for plasma, which can be easily frozen.  Red Blood cells can also be frozen, but it is difficult and expensive, which means most Red Blood Cells are refrigerated for a maximum of 42 days.  Separating blood into blood products, along with new technologies for reducing the need for blood helps extend the current supply, but the need for blood is currently increasing at a rate of 6% per year.  Today the need for “red gold” is such that “every drop counts”.
In the time it has taken me to tell you how valuable blood is, 120 Americans have needed blood with 10 of them needing not just blood products, but transfusions of whole blood, the kind that only lasts a few days.  Blood is needed everyday to meet the need, but our society often only thinks of blood donation during times of major catastrophes.  The largest users of blood are during surgeries, cancer treatment, and treatment for blood disorders.
The US network of blood banks tries to maintain a three day supply of blood.  Three days is a pretty small window that doesn’t have a lot of room for error.  In the last year American donated 15 Million units of blood against a need of 14 Million units.  This sounds good because that means we had an extra million pints of blood, hardly a situation where “every drop counts”.  The truth of the matter is that the less than 7% margin has to be spread out over the course of the year for the entire country, which means that there are shortages some days or places and overages in others.  The blood banks are situated near large commercial airports, but would you want your doctor to “come up short” until they could ferry some blood from LA or Seattle?
What can we do as Americans to help ourselves and our community?  Simple: donate blood on a regular basis, every two months.  The American Red Cross collects nearly half of the blood donated in the US.  They make it as easy as possible, requiring only about an hour of your time.  The actual collection process only takes 10 minutes.  You can also get on the National Blood Donor Registry and be notified when your region is experiencing particular shortages.  When “every drop counts”, even something as simple as knowing your blood type can prove to be useful, helping to use the blood supply in the most efficient way possible.
Like anything else in life, our individual and community health needs have to be balanced.  Despite the best efforts of modern western medicine, human blood is the one essential resource that only we as individuals can provide for the community.  Without regular blood donations Americans are at risk because the margin between having enough blood and falling short is very small.  Our blood supply is a perishable, but renewable resource that is in such high demand that “every drop counts”.  Please consider donating tomorrow.

*I had fully expected to get at least on member of Club 61 to have donated blood in the last year.  I had to make an on-the-fly adjustment to my speech because nobody had donated blood in some time.

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