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Giving blood donation a stamp of approval: postage stamps and related articles make unusual keepsakes for thanking people associated with blood services.

Giving blood donation a stamp of approval

Blood donor centers are continually searching for mementos to honor donors, coordinators, volunteers, and staff. Some centers order designs and logos from marketing consultants and advertising agencies to personalize such gifts at prices high enough to limit funding of other promotions.

An overlooked and inexpensive token with distinctive artwork is readily available in the form of commemorative postage stamps. More than 40 nations have created stamps that pay homage to blood donors and health care workers associated with transfusion. * Public service. Through the messages they bear, stamps have long served many purposes beyond moving mail. They encourage individuals to perform socialy worthwhile tasks, such as donating blood, for example. A 1971 U.S. stamp that honors blood donors (upper right, facing page) states: "Giving blood saves lives."

Several private companies produce envelopes enhanced with artwork, called a cachet, related to the subject of the stamp. The envelope, postmarked on the first day of issue in a city related to the stamp in some way, is known as the cacheted first-day cover. The one produced for the 1971 blood donor commemorative depicts a unit of blood being collected and a statement by President Nixon: "Among the noblest acts of personal generosity is the gift of one's blood for the benefit of another." A first-day cover and sheets of the stamp are displayed in our center. * Where to look. Stamps of all nations are described and illustrated in the Scott Catalog, well known to philatelists as the standard identification and price guide. Updated yearly, the catalog is available in most public libraries. Using the Scott number - U.S. Scott No. 1425 for the U.S. blood donor stamp mentioned above, for example - simplifies identifying and ordering stamps.

Obtaining stamps is more problematic. We sent away for catalogs from more than 30 different dealers when trying to locate one group of stamps we wanted to order, since each tends to specialize in a specific topic - animals, trains, medicine, and many others. It may be necessary to order from several companies to purchase all the stamps you are looking for. Another source is philatelic exhibits at which dealers sell stamps on a great many topics. * Popular themes. Common designs relating to blood services on stamps from various nations include blood drops, red crosses, and patients receiving transfusions. Tunisia has issued blood-related stamps on five separate occasions. On one, the arms of donors emerge from a red crescent. On another (below right), a nurse holds a bottle of blood. Uganda, where the threat of AIDS is great, issued a stamp on that subject (shown above left).

Papua, New Guinea, issued a four-stamp series in 1980. One attractive design featured a map of the island indicating its blood donation centers. Another illustrated blood components and types.

Belgian stamps show blood dropping on flowers (far left, top, facing page), a pelican feeding its young with drops of blood (top center, above), and a red cross dripping blood into a pale heart. An Israeli stamp displaying a blood drop inside the figure of a man sums up the value of blood donations: "Whoever saves one life has saved an entire world."

Several nations have chosen the scene of an operating room with a unit of blood hanging in the foreground, such as an attractive one from Mongolia shown at the top of the facing page. On a 1973 stamp from Uruguay, a blood donor's arm, arteries revealed, holds a heart. A Japanese stamp shows a blood bottle superimposed on a globe encircled by doves.

Blood bank pioneers have been recognized. East Germany (far left, bottom, facing page) and Austria have issued stamps to honor Karl Landsteiner, who first identified blood types. A U.S. stamp commemorates Dr. Charles Drew, who forged the way in blood collection and plasma processing. * Innovative offshoots. Several companies manufacture lapel pins, keychains, and other items incorporating stamps. Framed stamps paired with first-day covers make suitable gifts.

One of our volunteers created inexpensive luggage tags by laminating a business card on one side and a blood donor stamp on the other. We use these tokens for promotions during blood shortages, as gifts to encourage people to give blood at a new site, and in other special circumstances. These highly visible mementos double as repeated reminders to donate blood, both for their owners and for others who see them, and as traveling advertisements for our blood center.

On National Nurses' Day we gave our blood collection staff lapel pins made from a U.S. stamp honoring nurses. Students attending classes I have given at medical schools have participated enthusiastically when they realized that I would reward correct answers with stamps illustrating medical topics.

Interesting, inexpensive items such as these can be distributed in the clinical laboratory to celebrate individual achievement, to reward employees during particularly stressful periods, and as holiday presents. Our nursing staff keeps a supply of lapel pins of various stamp designs on hand for this purpose.

We are presently collecting blood-related stamps from around the world with which we'll create a poster to give to our regional hospital blood banks. The facilities that display these posters will publicly share our joint blood banking heritage.

The author is chief medical officer, American Red Cross Blood Services, Tulsa, Okla.
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Author:Kasprisin, Duke O.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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