Isn’t it beautiful that amidst our rich diversity, we all share the same lifeline running through our veins? Millions of people owe their lives to people whom they will never meet; people who donated their blood freely, voluntarily and without any reward.
This year, World Blood Donor Day was celebrated with the theme “Blood Connects Us All” - thanking generous donors who helped saved lives through the gift of blood donation and to encourage people to care for one another.
Share Life, Give Blood.
The World Health Organization in their statement states that:
108 million blood donations are collected globally, approximately half of these are collected in the high-income countries.
Blood donation by 1% of the population can meet a nation’s most basic requirements for blood.
62 countries collect 100% of their blood supply from voluntary, unpaid blood donors.
What’s in your blood?
Our blood is made up of various components; the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets all flowing in a liquid environment called the plasma.
- Red blood cells (erythrocytes) contain hemoglobin which helps carry oxygen and removes carbon dioxide
- White blood cells (leukocytes) are essentially our little soldiers, forming our defense against external invaders. When we are in distress and under attack, white blood cells rush in to help destroy the harmful pathogen and prevent illness.
- Platelets essentially help in our clotting mechanism to prevent us from bleeding excessively. Low platelet count results in bruises easily bleeding and clotting.
Our blood banks are in continuous need of blood supply. This is because red blood cells can last a maximum of 42 days, while platelets can only be kept for five to seven days. Plasma can be frozen and if kept in the right conditions, can keep well for years.
Blood that is being donated will then be screened for blood grouping – blood group A, B, AB (universal receiver) or O (universal donor) and also for any transfusion-transmittable diseases. It is interesting to note that your blood can be processed into various individual components and you are not helping just one in need but up to 3 people!
Who can donate blood?
Men can donate blood once every 3 months and women once in 4 months.
You can donate blood if you meet the criteria below:
- Between the age of 18 to 60 years old
- Weigh more than 45 kg
- Slept a minimum of 5 hours prior
- Free of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease.
- Meet the required parameters:
- Hemoglobin count of above 12.5 g/dL
- Systolic blood pressure between 100 and 140 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure between 70 to 100 mmHg
- Not involved in any high risk behaviors such asa homosexuality, drug abuse, multiple sexual partners and have no known sexually transmitted diseases.
- Women should not be pregnant, breastfeeding or having menses when donating blood.
Important Things To Note:
Prior to donating blood:
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
- Refrain from consuming alcohol and smoking 24 hours prior.
- Remember to eat hearty (include iron-rich food like meats, green leafy vegetables) prior to blood donation.
- Remember to inform the medical team if you are currently on any medication.
After donating blood:
- If you feel lightheaded, lie down, preferably with feet elevated, until the feeling passes.
- Eat well and remember to rehydrate over the next 24 to 48 hours after donation to replenish the fluids lost.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity or heavy lifting for about five hours after donation.
- Refrain from consuming alcohol or smoking for at least 24 hours after donation.
- If your arms become sore, apply an ice pack for 10 to 20 minutes to relieve the discomfort.
The whole blood donating process takes about 30 minutes. One pint of blood is equivalent to about 450ml of blood. The amount you will be donating depends on your weight. The Malaysian National Blood Bank collects 3,200 units of blood in a week and these are then supplied to the various government and private hospitals in the Klang Valley, while in other states it is provided by the respective state blood banks.
Note: Please consult your physician should you have any doubts or concerns about donating blood.
Who Will You Help?
As most of my comrades in the medical field will attest too, there are times where our hospitals are in dire need of blood supply. We’ve seen cases of mothers in labour bleeding profusely and needing blood, a child with Thalassemia needing transfusions every time he feels weak and lethargic, and cases of road accident victims with massive blood loss and in need of blood for survival. These are just some individuals you may be helping when you donate blood.
So keep a look out for the next blood donation campaign nearest to you and consider donating a pint to save lives! Or join a fun run that supports this cause!