This is frightening information as people need blood at some stage, either for after an accident, while in child labour etc. If there is no blood available then how do these people get help? Lives are at risk… and it could be one of us or one of our family. PLEASE, if you are a regular donor – go and donate as a matter of urgency if it is within your dates for donating… but also to NEW donors – if it is on your heart to save a life, please find a clinic near you and go and donate.
Every day 3 000 units of blood are transfused to patients in dire need of blood. If it was not for blood donors who give their time and blood, blood transfusion in South Africa would not exist.
How safe is our blood?
South Africa’s blood counts among the safest in the world. Every time a person donates a unit of blood, it’s tested for HIV/Aids, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis. Since October 2005, there have been no reports of transfusion of contaminated blood.
How does blood donation process work?
The entire blood donation process takes about 30 minutes. The same Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is followed with every blood donation:
- A blood donor is given the pamphlet: Are you donating blood for the right reasons, to read. This pamphlet contains information on safe blood transfusion and risk behaviour.
- If the donor thinks his blood is safe for transfusion, a donor questionnaire is completed. This questionnaire has questions on the donor’s health and lifestyle. With every donation the questionnaire has to be completed to ascertain if it is safe for the person to donate blood and to determine if the person’s blood would be safe for a patient to receive.
- A registered nurse conducts a one-on-one interview with the donor and asks questions based on answers given in the questionnaire;
- The donors iron level and blood pressure is taken and when this is within the permissible limit, the actual donation takes place, which takes about 15 minutes.
- A brand new, sterile needle is used for every donation and discarded afterwards. People therefore cannot get HIV/Aids through donating blood.
What happens after the donation?
- The donor will be given some refreshments to replenish the fluid lost. Normal activities can be followed and there should be no side effects.
- For 24 hours after the donation, more fluid should be taken and heavy exercise with the arm used for the donation, should not be done.
- It is also best not to smoke for three hours after you’ve donated.
There are still a number of misconceptions making people reluctant to donate blood. Main excuses are:
- I do not have enough blood in my body. This is untrue. The average person has about five litres of blood and a unit of blood is only 480ml. Your body makes up the lost fluid within 24 hours, whilst the red cells are replaced within 32 days.
- I will contract HIV/Aids. You cannot get HIV/Aids by donating blood. For every donor a new, sterile needle is used and discarded afterwards.
- I am scared of the needle. Many people are scared of the needle, but the patients’ need for blood is bigger than your fear. To donate blood should not hurt. Pinch the fold on the inside of your arm. This is what it feels like when the needle is inserted.
- There are enough people who donate blood. This is not true. Less than one per cent of the population donates blood, which leaves SANBS in constant blood shortages.
- Blood of black people don’t get used. Since October 2005, SANBS has implemented a new risk model, which is not based on a donor’s race, but on the amount of times a person donates. Blood from all people are used.
- I have to pay for blood when I receive it. You do not pay for the blood itself, but for the cost incurred to collect, test and transport the blood. Rigorous testing and processing of blood takes place on every unit of blood and SANBS has to cover these costs in order to supply safe blood to patients.
- I am on medication. It is true that certain type of medication prohibits a person from donating blood. At every blood donation centre a registered nurse is on duty. Please ask these professionals for advice on your condition if you want to donate.
Where does the blood go?
- Medical cases: 27%
- Childbirth/Gynaecological cases: 26%
- Surgical cases: 20%
- Paediatric cases: 10%
- Orthopaedic cases: 6%
- Laboratory: 6%
- Casualty: 4%
Facts about blood:
After every donation, blood is divided into three components, thus, red cells, plasma and platelets, each with their own specific use.
- Red cells are used to replace red cells during operations, accident victims, aneamia, certain cancer patients and rhesus babies.
- Plasma is used to restore blood volume and to make the following blood products: Immunoglobulin: Used for protection against diseases, e.g. cancer patients requiring protection against diseases and boosting of immune system; Albumin: Used for restoration of blood volume and treatment of burns; and Factor VIII and IX: Used for treating blood disorders, e.g. haemophilia.
- Platelets are used for blood clotting, for example, patients with blood disorders or to treat internal bleeding.
- Who can donate blood?
- Weigh 50kg or more;
- Are between 16 and 65 years;
- Are in good health;
- Lead a sexually safe lifestyle; and
- Consider their blood safe for transfusion.
For more information on local clinics call SANBS Toll Free: 0800 11 9031.
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