Be blood (ubuntu) brothers & sisters
“Every few seconds, someone, somewhere, needs blood.”
This is the message from the World Health Organisation ahead of World Blood Donor Day which is remembered around the globe every year on 14 June.
Safe Blood for All
The slogan for this year is ‘Safe Blood for All’ and it is a timely reminder of just how important blood is for saving so many lives.
The aim of the day is to encourage people to give blood and to do so safely.
Just one unit of blood can save up to three lives.
In South Africa, less than one percent of the population are active blood donors. This is a very serious problem as we must have enough donated blood to save the lives of all in need.
We also need many different donors because there are different types of blood and most of these blood types cannot be mixed.
Therefore, we need to keep matching donors with those who need the same type of blood as them.
There are four main blood types, A, B, O and AB, but these are then also divided into further types. It is important to know your blood type so that you can be sure that in an emergency you are given the right kind of blood. The first time an you donate blood, your blood type will be checked. You can have a blood type test at a lab.
How to give blood?
The process of donating blood is simple and quick.
To become a blood donor you need to contact or go to an organisation such as the South African National Blood Services. Here they will check if you fit the criteria (are the right kind of person) to be able to give blood. They will check certain details about your life and health so as to make sure that giving blood will not be harmful to you or to the person who will get your blood.
If you are suitable to be a donor, the most common way you will donate blood is through a process whereby a small needle is placed into one of your veins. This needle draws blood into a special bag which will be stored until someone needs it.
There are also specialised donations when just parts of your blood, such as the platelets and plasma, are collected. In these cases, different machines are used but the process is also easy for you.
After you finish donating blood, the officials might give you something sweet to eat or drink just to keep up your energy level. You might want to sit or lie down for a little while. However, after a few minutes you should be absolutely fine to go on with your day!
In general donors can give blood every eight weeks. It is very important to give blood regularly as the donated units can only last for 42 days.
Why to give blood?
There are various types of situations in which people will need blood donations in order to survive after some kind of health problems or crisis.
- Women who experience bleeding during pregnancy or childbirth.
- People with blood or bone marrow disorders; as well as other illnesses.
- People that are injured in accidents, emergencies or disasters.
- Patients that need blood during certain medical procedures and surgeries.
Who can give blood?
Most people can give blood but the basic requirements are that you must be between the ages of 16 and 75 and must weigh more than 50 kilograms.
If you have HIV/AIDS or a sexually transmitted disease, then you cannot give blood as these illnesses travel through blood. Similarly, if you have taken or do take illegal drugs, you cannot be a blood donor.
When you go to give blood you will be asked other questions as well. These are not meant to be rude but only to ensure that the process is safe for you and those to whom you would donate.
There are also certain conditions that mean you cannot give blood at one time, but should be able to do so at a later stage. These include if you have had some dental work done recently, are on certain kinds of prescription medicine, have visited a malaria area recently, have had unsafe sex or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Where to give blood
In South Africa, the SANBS is the organisation that makes sure we have enough blood to help save all our people.
They have branches all over the country and they also visit schools, workplaces and even shopping centres to get donations.
You can contact them for more information on 0800 119 031 or check out their website for more information at www.sanbs.org.za.
Contact the SANBS to find out if you can become a blood donor and encourage those around you to do the same.