Why is O negative blood so special

3:49 PM, May 28, 2013   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- What makes an O negative blood donor a super hero?

"Their blood cells can be given to anyone," explains LeeAnn Weitekamp, the Medical Director for MI Blood. She explains that in an emergency when someone's life depends on getting blood immediately, it's the only type that will save their life because O negative is compatible with every blood type.

"It's the one type that can be given to them in that short time frame where they need it and they need it now until they actually do get typed appropriately," says Weitekamp.

What else makes O negative donors super heroes? The fact that they make up only about 9% of the world's population making it the fourth rarest blood type. And why type O negative donors are asked to give more often.

But most O negative donors like Carolyn DeWitte are more than willing. "I realize I'm a universal donor and I come in and I donate and I feel good when I do it."

And Ronald Reed says he likes convenience of not having to keep track of when it's time to give. "Now with the greater needs, they've stepped up and they call me in advance."

Thomas Muller has given 26 gallons and he's seen first hand how his blood has saved lives. "When I was very young they used my blood in Rh negative babies and they needed total blood transfusions and I've been giving for about 50 years."

But 26-gallon donor Marcia Mattson says there's also a downside to being an O negative blood donor. "I didn't want anything happening to me, so they had to find an O negative because that's the only blood an O negative person can have."

Weitekamp explains why no one else can give blood to an O negative person. "You are a very giving individual to everyone else, but for you the only blood you can get is an O negative."

About 15% of O negatives would have such an adverse reaction to getting another blood type, that Weitekamp says it could kill them. "What happens is you activate a substance that punches holes in the red blood cells and they kind of explode."

Even more of a reason to have a large supply of O negative blood. "We need you most often than anyone else that's a super hero." says Weitekamp.

Right now there is a need for all types of blood.

MI Blood is holding a blood drive beginning Tuesday, May 28 and ending Thursday, May 30th. All you have to do is stop by during their hours and give the gift of life.

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