What is Hemoglobin?

Lauren Frame February 11, 2020

Hemoglobin is a red protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. It also returns carbon dioxide from your tissues back to your lungs.

Hemoglobin levels play an important role in your ability to donate blood. Your numbers must be within certain healthy levels for you to be eligible to give. 

Before you donate blood, we will check your hemoglobin levels. If the count is too low you will not be able to donate that day.

While hemoglobin is responsible for the red color of your red blood cells, it also plays an important role in maintaining their shape. Red blood cells are naturally round with a circular depression in the center, making them resemble doughnuts without a hole. 

When you have an abnormal hemoglobin structure, it can disrupt the shape of those red blood cells, impeding their function and flow throughout your blood vessels. This can be seen in people who have sickle cell disease, like Alanna.alt text

Alanna gets her blood tested every four to six weeks. If her hemoglobin counts are too low, she must receive a blood transfusion. 

When her hemoglobin is low, the large number of sickled cells in her bloodstream have trouble traveling through her blood vessels, cutting off the flow of oxygen to her tissues. This can cause a pain crisis, an ulcer, or any number of other complications. 

Blood transfusions replace those sickled cells with healthy red blood cells and help her body function properly and get her back to normal life.

“Blood transfusions have saved my life,” she said. “Not just saved me from pain, saved me from dying.”

Corbyn and his adopted brother Cai also have issues with their hemoglobin. Both boys were born with Beta Thalassemia Major, which is similar to sickle cell disease.

A mutation on their Beta chain means their bodies need routine blood transfusions to increase their hemoglobin levels. Corbyn is completely dependent on lifesaving blood, and the brothers remain grateful every day for all the donors who share their power to give them the gift of life.

By giving blood, you can help patients like Alanna, Corbyn and Cai. They count on people with healthy hemoglobin levels to donate and help keep them alive. 

Plus, when you come in to give, you can find out your own hemoglobin numbers and keep up with them in your Donor Portal!

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Lauren Frame

Lauren Frame is a Creative Designer at OneBlood. She has a passion for motivating and educating blood donors through storytelling.

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