SANBS takes a fresh look at blood donation

SANBS donor relations practitioner Maryke Harris holds sachets of Type O blood at the SANBS office. She is appealing to the public to donate blood, especially those with Otype blood
SANBS donor relations practitioner Maryke Harris holds sachets of Type O blood at the SANBS office. She is appealing to the public to donate blood, especially those with Otype blood
Image: Eugene Coetzee

A new take on blood donation could see more donors starting to queue to contribute towards keeping the nation’s blood pumping.

After recently launching its blood carrier drone, the South African National Blood Services (SANBS) is again on the innovative edge of providing state-of-the-art blood services and solutions through its cell separator machine – which, it is hoped, will be operational in blood donation clinics by the end of August.

However, while the technology could revolutionise the way the SANBS operates around the country, it is still relying on the tried and tested method of “whole blood” donations, SANBS donor relations practitioner Maryke Harris said.

While it was never easy to reach the annual target of 11% new donors, she said, among the many ways of attracting new donors was to go big – which the SANBS plans to do on Wednesday with a day-long blood drive in Ring Road, Greenacres, in partnership with The Herald and BMW Continental Cars.

This falls ahead of World Blood Donor Day on Friday.

Harris said the single biggest problem with acquiring and retaining new donors was that about 70% of donors whose blood is rejected – for a variety of reasons – failed to return.

“One needs to understand that when you are initially rejected [there] could be a variety of reasons [for it,] but mainly because of iron levels, which fluctuate daily.

“As a result you might be fine to donate the next day, but because we rejected you we have now lost your donation forever,” Harris said.

“That is why the cell separator technology is gamechanging.

“When we collect blood it is [called] whole blood, which we then break down into plasma, blood platelets and red cells.”

Each has a different shelf life.

“So while we may have enough stock of platelets we might not have enough plasma.

“This machine will then allow us to extract what is required and also eliminate some side-effects.”

The side-effects could include feeling light-headed.

“You donate as normal, but the blood is then filtered through the machine.

“If we only need plasma, that is all that will be taken – the platelets and red cells will be [returned] to your body.”

The intended roll-out of the technology will take place later in 2019.

She invited residents of Port Elizabeth to support Wednesday’s blood drive to be held in the parking lot of Continental Cars in Ring Road.

To further entice potential donors, The Herald has thrown its weight behind the event.

The newspaper is offering a free three-month premium digital subscription to all those who donate during the blood drive.

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