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Life in General Perspectives

Red Blood Cells: The Lifeline to Living

By Helen Hermes

About five years ago I was diagnosed with polycythemia vera. That means my system makes too many red blood cells which could lead to blood clots and or strokes. To control the overabundance of red cells, I take two tablets of hydroxyurea daily. The dosage may change according to the results of the blood test which determines when another blood draw is taken.

Before I go any further, this is not a medical opinion or diagnosis. It is to get you to think about how important it is for you to carry information about your blood type along with a list of medication you are taking in case of an emergency.

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Red blood cells carry oxygen to and carbon dioxide away from the cells of the human body and are the basic requirements for health and life. Another essential requirement for survival is the inborn protective cellular and humoral defense forces which automatically respond to countless invading bacteria and many other challenges. The system that performs these two basic functions is called the Reticulo-Endothelial System. For short it is abbreviated to R-E system.

Where do red cells come from and how do they function in our body? Red blood cells are formed in the red marrow of the bones. They grow and multiply by nuclear divisions as they mature. The survival life for an average life of a cell is 120 days within the circulating bloodstream. Red blood cells often vary from the ideal shape of a disk with concave sides. The qualitative differences are important in diagnosing certain blood disorders.

Where does the color come from? The color comes from heme, an iron-containing pigment that combines with protein to form hemoglobin. This molecule has the ability that picks up oxygen and carbon dioxide and holds them very loosely depending upon their relative environmental concentrations. Red cells work like an endless belt loop bringing fuel-gas to cells and carrying away the exhaust-gas.

Composition of blood is red cells and plasma which is a slightly yellowish color. Some of these cells can have antigens which act as identifiers or they may lack antigens. Based on the presence or the lack of antigens, medical professionals can determine your blood type.

A, B, AB, and O are the four main blood types. Along with the four main types of cells, there is negative or positive Rh factor known as Rhesus. If blood cells contain antigen, it means the blood is positive. If there is a lack of antigen, then it means the RH is negative.

It is possible to have antibodies in your plasma. If someone is given the right or wrong blood type, but the Rh factor was wrong, the body would reject the blood. Therefore, it is crucial that the correct Rh factor is given.

People that are Rh-positive can receive blood from either a positive or negative donor. People with Rh-negative can only receive blood from an Rh-negative donor.

One of the first tests given to women who are pregnant is to determine the blood type. If the test shows to be Rh-positive, then there is no concern. However, if the test shows an Rh-negative type, there is a risk of Rh incompatibility between the mother and baby. The mother’s antibodies could attack the baby and cause complications.

The baby gets its blood type from the parents. The genes can be dominant or recessive. There are three distinct genes that determine the baby’s blood type. A and B are the dominate genes. Type O is the recessive gene. If type “A” is passed from one parent and the other parent passes a “B” gene then the baby will have “AB” blood type. If one parent passes an “O” gene then the baby’s blood type will be either an “A” or a “B” type.

What are the other possible combinations? There is A+/A-, B+/B-, AB+/AB-, O+/O-. AB+ lack antibodies for blood type and Rh factor, so people with AB+ can receive blood from anyone. Type O+/O- lack all antigens for blood types and Rh factor. Donors with either type O blood can donate blood to any person.

There is much more information regarding red blood cells and how they are your lifeline. It is very interesting how they work in the Reticulo-Endothelial System. The R-E system is a complex meshwork of internal defenses. The red blood cells are the lifeline to good health. They carry oxygen to every part of the body. Without them, there is no life.

For your health and safety keep a list of medicines you take and your blood type on your person all the time.

Helen is retired from a career involving mostly in data processing. She started in data entry and advanced to data entry supervisor and then into computer operations, programming, system analyst and middle management. She owned her own data services company that provided service to Ford Motor Company, Blue Cross, Chrysler, ASI, School Districts and many other businesses. After five and a half years, Helen sold to her partner. She and her husband moved to the Rose City, MI area to farm. After ten years of commuting back and forth to Detroit, a final move back to Farmington Hills was made.

During her life, Helen attended various college classes that included computer programming, business law, English composition, accounting, and other courses. She taught enrichment classes at Kirkland Community College, tutored reading classes in Port Huron for six years, was chairperson of the St Clair County Master Gardener’s Club for four years, was head trustee at Immanuel Lutheran Church for eight years, Chairperson of the Women’s Group at Holy Redeemer Church for four years, past secretary, vice chair, and chair of other various committees for the St Clair County GOP (member since 2008).

Helen and her husband, Jack have lived in Clyde Township for thirty years where they build their home. While living in Clyde they have traveled in every state of the United States. After visiting all the states, they journeyed to other countries in Europe, Eastern Europe (before EU), China, Thailand, Mexico, Columbia, Panama Canal, and others.

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