Donate blood and save precious lives

WHILE one unit of blood you donate can save up to three lives, less than 1% of eligible South Africans are regular blood donors.

What is more, to meet the demand for blood in South Africa, the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) must collect an average of 3000 units of blood a day.

June is blood donation month around the world.

According to SANBS communications manager Vanessa Raju, the decision to become a safe blood donor means that a person commits to participating in a vital community service that ultimately improves the quality of life for many patients in need.

“The SANBS has various measures in place to protect the health and wellbeing of both blood donors and patients and these measures ensure that our blood supply is among the safest in the world.”

World Blood Donor Day was on June 14 and SANBS has a blood donation drive over the course of this month.

A donor can donate blood every 56 days, but because blood lasts only 42 days after donation, regular donors are essential for sustainability, as there are far fewer donors than recipients, resulting in blood always being in short supply. It is vital not to view a donation as a once-off exercise.

“One cannot get Aids from donating blood because all needles and fingerprick lancets are new, sterile and used only once.

“After use, each lancet and needle is placed in a special medical-waste container and incinerated, says Raju.

“Trained staff collect all blood donations and very strict protocols are followed to ensure that all blood donation procedures are safe and hygienic.”

To become a safe blood donor persons must:

ýWeigh at least 50kg;

ýBe between the ages of 16 and 65;

ýBe in good health;

ýLead a sexually-safe lifestyle;

ýConsider your blood safe for transfusion to a patient; and

ýCommit to donating blood regularly.

Raju says donated blood is used for many purposes, with about half going to medical cases such as cancer treatment, childbirth and gynaecology.

“21% is used for surgery; 10% goes towards paediatric cases like leukaemia; 6% is used in orthopaedic cases such as hip replacements, and 4% is used for casualty, for example, trauma patients,” she said.

In addition, 6% also went towards research.

Dr Dominique Stott, executive of medical standards and services at PPS, says the entire process takes about 30 minutes and the donor’s body replaces all the fluid within 24 hours through fluid intake.

There are no health-related side effects.

There are various venues where people can donate blood as well as mobile blood donation drives.

All dates, locations and further information can be found on the SANBS website at www.sanbs.org.za.

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