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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and not just because of Christmas. Are you aware of how many great inventions we celebrate during December? December 3 was Telescope Day, to commemorate Galileo’s 1621 invention. December 21 was Crossword Puzzle Day, since that’s when the first one appeared in the New York World in 1913. The transistor, texting, the clip-on tie, Chiclets… all invented during this month. But much of what we know about the world’s most important inventions is “patently” false. We’ve asked Jeopardy!’s Ken Jennings to use 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration in tracking down the truth.

The Debunker: Did the African-American Inventor of the Blood Bank Die Because Racist Doctors Refused Him a Transfusion?

Millions of lives have been saved over the years by the pioneering research of Charles Drew. Drew was an Ivy League-educated surgeon—the first African American ever to graduate from Columbia’s medical school—who revolutionized blood banking when he discovered that blood could be refrigerated longer if the blood cells were centrifuged out of the plasma, and that plasma transfusions didn’t have to be separated by blood type. During World War II, Drew set up the world’s first large-scale blood banks to help wounded soldiers. Drew’s accomplishments as a black doctor were even more impressive in an age of limited opportunity for African Americans.

But today, Charles Drew is mostly remembered not for his medical achievements, but for an anecdote about his death. On April 1, 1950, Drew fell asleep behind the wheel of his car on a North Carolina highway. His passengers survived the accident, but Drew was thrown from the driver’s sea and the vehicle rolled over him. He was taken to the closest hospital—a “white” facility in a state where hospitals were still segregated—but doctors there were unable to save his life. He was pronounced dead half an hour later.

According to legend—a legend presented as fact in a 1973 episode of M*A*S*H, among other places—Drew died because Alamance General Hospital in Burlington, North Carolina, refused to give a blood transfusion to the inventor of the blood bank. Stories like this certainly aren’t outside the realm of possibility. During World War II, Drew had been asked to resign from his Red Cross post for opposing the War Department’s policy of racially segregating blood donations. But a transfusion wasn’t administered to Drew in 1950 because of his medical condition, not his race. His injuries were just too severe, ranging from a broken neck to brain damage to a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart. Drew’s family even wrote to the attending physicians at Alamance thanking them for their work. A refused blood transfusion would have been a tragic irony, but it never happened.

Quick Quiz: What blood type is often called the “universal donor” because it can be used in transfusions to recipients of any blood type?

Ken Jennings is the author of Because I Said So!, Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and Maphead. He's also the proud owner of an underwhelming Bag o' Crap. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings. "Dr.Charles Richard Drew" by Charles Alston taken from Wikipedia.

dwootshrute


quality posts: 2 Private Messages dwootshrute

The universal donor blood type is O negative.

whatsamattaU


quality posts: 1070 Private Messages whatsamattaU

Ken, one correction: "driver's sea" needs correction.
I know that everything isn't clear cut in this life, and how people sometimes will only present/look at partial facts, but I tried presenting the complete picture when I gave presentations in the past. I appreciate it when people with sincere intentions challenge us when the "common knowledge" needs to be questioned, trying to give a more complete picture. It doesn't mean we have to agree on everything, but at least, it makes us think. Thanks, Ken, and Merry Christmas/Happy New Year. I hope that you continue doing this column for a long time.

bljteach


quality posts: 1 Private Messages bljteach

The universal blood type is "O-ordinary" (O-positive), which is also the most common blood type. Though it's most common, it's usually in shortest supply, because it's also in greatest demand.

whatsamattaU


quality posts: 1070 Private Messages whatsamattaU

Universal blood (not plasma) donor is O negative. I agree O positive is the most common blood type, but I don't think I'd say "universal". To clarify things, use the Red Cross:
http://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-types

derek@unm.edu


quality posts: 0 Private Messages derek@unm.edu

Do you have plans to debunk the myth, that "...December 3 was Telescope Day, to commemorate Galileo’s 1621 invention"? Actually, I'm not sure whether Telescope Day is a myth, but many common sources, including The Galileo Project http://galileo.rice.edu/sci/lipperhey.html, agree that Galileo famously used, but didn't invent the telescope in the year 1609, rather than 1621. So the Galileo reference in the introduction to the Debunker blogs this month is wrong on the year of Galileo's earliest telescope work, and the attribution of the invention to him.

It's interesting to me that, according to online sources, Galileo built his telescope after reading a description of one, without ever having seen a model. Some sources say that his version was superior to the models that inspired it.

It is also reported that he was the first to use a telescope to look at celestial objects. He discovered mountains on the moon, and discovered the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. What a fortuitous happenstance, that he should discover precisely those moons which share his name?

wadehp


quality posts: 0 Private Messages wadehp

Well if you trust the Mayo Clinic - from Ruben A. Mesa, M.D.

At one time, type O negative blood was considered the universal blood donor type. This implied that anyone — regardless of blood type — could receive type O negative blood without risking a transfusion reaction. However, we now know even type O negative blood may have antibodies that cause serious reactions during a transfusion.

There are four types of blood. They are classified as:

Type A
Type B
Type AB
Type O

Blood is also classified by rhesus (Rh) factor, which refers to a specific red blood cell antigen in the blood. If your blood has the antigen, you're Rh positive. If your blood lacks the antigen, you're Rh negative.

Ideally, blood transfusions are done with donated blood that's an exact match for type and Rh factor. Even then, small samples of the recipient's and donor's blood are mixed to check compatibility in a process known as cross-matching. In an emergency, however, type O negative red blood cells may be given to anyone — especially if the situation is life-threatening or the matching blood type is in short supply.

Mayo Clinic products and services

whatsamattaU


quality posts: 1070 Private Messages whatsamattaU
wadehp wrote:Well if you trust the Mayo Clinic - from Ruben A. Mesa, M.D.

At one time, type O negative blood was considered the universal blood donor type. This implied that anyone — regardless of blood type — could receive type O negative blood without risking a transfusion reaction. However, we now know even type O negative blood may have antibodies that cause serious reactions during a transfusion.

There are four types of blood. They are classified as:

Type A
Type B
Type AB
Type O

Blood is also classified by rhesus (Rh) factor, which refers to a specific red blood cell antigen in the blood. If your blood has the antigen, you're Rh positive. If your blood lacks the antigen, you're Rh negative.

Ideally, blood transfusions are done with donated blood that's an exact match for type and Rh factor. Even then, small samples of the recipient's and donor's blood are mixed to check compatibility in a process known as cross-matching. In an emergency, however, type O negative red blood cells may be given to anyone — especially if the situation is life-threatening or the matching blood type is in short supply.

Mayo Clinic products and services



I trust the Mayo Clinic (although a study years ago indicated no medical website was 100% accurate and up to date. They do have the HON code symbol for reliability: https://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Conduct.html?HONConduct636199, and it was good for you to add this info. Although it depends on how technical we're going to be with Ken's question, yes, there technically is no more "universal blood type" based on the ABO system, given the Rh D system. These aren't the only tranfusion reactions possible, but the ABO and RhD are the main ones to focus on for red blood cells.

The article you're quoting:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/universal-blood-donor-type/HQ00949

A deeper article (Chapter 3) on transfusions and immune system reactions for those curious, from the NIH (National Institutes of Health)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2265/
from their textbook Blood Groups and Red Cell Antigens, by Laura Dean
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2261/

Sorry, I tend to go deep on these topics at times.

galaxyone


quality posts: 0 Private Messages galaxyone
wadehp wrote:Well if you trust the Mayo Clinic - from Ruben A. Mesa, M.D.

At one time, type O negative blood was considered the universal blood donor type. This implied that anyone — regardless of blood type — could receive type O negative blood without risking a transfusion reaction. However, we now know even type O negative blood may have antibodies that cause serious reactions during a transfusion.

There are four types of blood. They are classified as:

Type A
Type B
Type AB
Type O

Blood is also classified by rhesus (Rh) factor, which refers to a specific red blood cell antigen in the blood. If your blood has the antigen, you're Rh positive. If your blood lacks the antigen, you're Rh negative.

Ideally, blood transfusions are done with donated blood that's an exact match for type and Rh factor. Even then, small samples of the recipient's and donor's blood are mixed to check compatibility in a process known as cross-matching. In an emergency, however, type O negative red blood cells may be given to anyone — especially if the situation is life-threatening or the matching blood type is in short supply.

Mayo Clinic products and services



galaxyone


quality posts: 0 Private Messages galaxyone

You obviously forgot another blood type:

Type Gay which is strictly forbidden and refused at all donations stations in the US. Orig found this out while trying to donate in nyc one day after 9/11. Good times...
>

galaxyone wrote:



LarryLars


quality posts: 65 Private Messages LarryLars
galaxyone wrote:You obviously forgot another blood type:

Type Gay which is strictly forbidden and refused at all donations stations in the US. Orig found this out while trying to donate in nyc one day after 9/11. Good times...
>


Thanks to all for sharing the info and good times.


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