June is blood donor month and in South Africa we have less than 1% of active blood donors. A donor can donate blood every eight weeks. The blood that is donated to the South African National Blood Services (SANBS) is separated and used accordingly. The SANBS aims to collect 3000 units of blood daily. There is always a shortage of blood especially in the winter season as individuals get sick and are discouraged to go out into the cold to donate blood.
Most people are eligible to donate blood yet they do not do so. Any healthy individual over the age of 16 can donate blood. The requirements to donate blood are as follows:
– You need to have a minimum weight of 50 Kgs.
– You need to be between the ages of 16 and 75
– Your pulse needs to be between 50-100 regular beats per minute.
– Your haemoglobin level should be 12.5g/dL or above.
– Your blood pressure needs to be below 180 systolic and below 100 diastolic(180/100mmHg) and above 100 systolic and above 60 diastolic (100/60mmHg).
– You need to be in good health
– You need to lead a low risk lifestyle
– You need to have had a balanced meal within four hours prior to donating blood
– You should not have donated blood in the last 56 days
Donating blood can be considered a mini health check as the facilitators need to be 100% sure that you are eligible so they undergo a screening where they take your blood pressure and check your pulse rate and that your haemoglobin levels are in check.
You cannot donate blood if you check any of the following:
– If you have tested positive for HIV
– If there is any chance that you have been exposed to HIV or if you are only donating blood to check if you are HIV positive
– If you are being treated for a sexually transmitted infection at the time of donating blood
If you check any of the following, you need to consult a doctor or the SANBS before attempting to donate blood:
– If you are on antibiotics
– If you have had surgery in the last 6 months or are you due for surgery in at least 6 weeks
– If you have had cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, a bleeding disorder or any other chronic medical condition
– If you have travelled from or to a malaria area
– If you are pregnant or breastfeeding your baby
– If you are involved in a hazardous operational activity or sport like, scuba diving, flying, operating heavy machinery or working at heights
Many people fear what could happen to them after going through the donation process, this is a fear that is often blown out of proportion. The side effects that one might experience after donating blood are nausea, dizziness or fainting, these are symptoms that, if they occur, do not last very long and are quickly overcome as the body replaces the plasma within 72 hours post blood donation.
Many people don’t know that donating blood has health benefits, here are some of them:
– When donating blood, you remove between 225 to 250mg of iron from your body reducing the risk of health complications.
– You can burn up to 650 calories as the body needs to replenish itself.
– Blood donors are 33% less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and 88% less likely to suffer from a heart attack
– Blood donors have a reduced risk of cancer and hemochromatosis.
The process of donating blood is safe and relatively quick, most blood is donated as a whole and then later separated into smaller components being red blood cells, plasma and platelets.
The donation of platelets is slightly different to the donation of whole blood cells as both arms are used when donating platelets. Blood is taken from one arm, the platelets removed via the use of a machine and the remaining blood is then returned to the donor through the other arm.
In Kimberly there are between 500 and 600 people that donate blood monthly. Blood is essential in helping trauma victims, organ transplants, bone marrow transplants, cancer treatments and children with life threatening anaemia. It has been debated by some people that they do not donate blood as they are not certain where the blood goes. Some people refrain from donating blood for cultural reasons as it is believed by some that you cannot remove anything from your body to give to others as its ‘unnatural’.
Save a life, donate blood!