WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DONATE BLOOD – TO THE PATIENT AND DONOR ?
Blood donation can be defined as a process by which a blood donor voluntarily has some blood drawn for storage in a blood bank for subsequent use in blood transfusion for the benefit of a patient.
Human blood is an essential element of human life without substitute, composed of cells (Red blood cells, White blood cells and Platelets) suspended in liquid called plasma that flows everywhere through the human body.
Blood plays crucial role in the human body including oxygen transport ( by Red Blood Cells) from lungs to the rest of body tissues, defense of the body ( by White Blood Cells), blood Clotting ( by Platelets and Coagulation factors) and regulation of blood pressure (by plasma : albumin).
What is blood transfusion ? A blood transfusion is a procedure in which blood is given to a patient through an intravenous (IV) line in one of the blood vessels. Blood transfusions are done to replace blood lost during surgery or a serious injury. A transfusion also may be done if a person’s body can’t make blood properly because of an illness. One single donation can be split into three separate parts, helping save or improve the lives of up to three patients.
What are steps involved in blood donation ? Blood donation is a safe and easy process which takes approximately one hour and comprising mainly the following steps : registration, health history and mini physical exam, blood donation and refreshments.
Registration consists of checking, entering or writing down your name, address, phone, e-mail, donor card and donor identification number.
Health history and mini physical exam involves answering questions in a donor questionnaire regarding your health status, signing a consent form, holding a confidential health interview with a medical doctor or a nurse, taking your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and measuring your hemoglobin level.
Blood donation itself consists of taking your blood using needle and equipment that are pre-packaged, sterile and disposable and the blood bag is to be filled in 8-10 minutes. The blood bank is under strict regulation and nothing is ever re-used on another donor to ensure safety of blood donation.
The last step consists of taking refreshments which allow your body time to adjust to the slight decrease in fluid volume and then you leave after 10 to 15 minutes to continue your normal daily activities.
How much blood can be taken ? We have, in our adult bodies depending on size, between 4 and 6 liters of blood, of which only 450 ml of blood is taken. The withdrawn blood volume (blood plasma) is restored within 24 hours, red blood cells in about 6 weeks, platelets and white blood cells within minutes. Therefore it is safe to donate blood every 3 months.
What is post donation advice ? Drink lots of fluids for next 24 hours, avoid smoking for one hour and alcohol till after a meal, and avoid highly strenuous exercises and games for a day. If you feel dizzy, lie down and put your feet up. You will be alright in 10 to 20 minutes. If you have any other questions, call toll free 1011.
Who can donate blood ? A blood donor should be in good health, be aged between 17 and 60 years of age with a weight of at least 50 kg with normal pulse rate, body temperature and blood pressure . Both men and women can donate. There are some conditions in which donors are permanently excluded like abnormal bleeding , cardiovascular , kidney and liver disorders, AIDS or Positive HIV test, epilepsy, mental disorders, insulin dependent diabetics, and uncontrolled high blood pressure. Donors presenting with tattooing or body piercing, dental extraction, root canal treatment, endoscopy or abortion are deferred for 6 months in Rwanda.
Female donors cannot donate blood during pregnancy and after delivery for one year. They cannot donate when lactating, during menstrual period and for 7 days thereafter. No one can donate blood if they have consumed alcohol in the previous 24 hours.
What is done with the blood collected ? The blood collected in sterile, pyrogen free containers with anticoagulants like CPDA or CPDA with SAGM. This prevents clotting and provides nutrition for the cells. This blood is stored at 2-6 C or -30 C depending on the component prepared.
Donated blood undergoes various tests like blood grouping antibody detection, testing of infections like hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and syphilis and before it reaches the recipient it undergoes compatibility testing with the recipient blood.
In which conditions do patients need blood ? Most of patients need blood transfusion in the following conditions : surgical procedures, chronic anaemia, haemorrhage due to trauma or other causes, cancer patients, blood disorder patients and premature or pre term birth.
It has been revealed that 1 out of 7 to 10 hospital patients needs a blood transfusion globally and In Rwanda 35,118 blood units were distributed in hospitals in 2011.
What are blood donation benefits for blood donors ? Blood donation benefits extend beyond those who receive blood. Donors also receive numerous health benefits. Blood donation benefits to donors include :
Free health screening : Every time you give blood, a medical technician, doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and give you a free health screening.
Reduced risk of heart disease : Giving blood may prevent heart disease. Although no conclusive evidence is available, numerous physicians have noted that blood donors typically have fewer cases of heart disease than non-donors. Reducing blood iron through regular blood donation is a healthy way to potentially lower your risk of heart disease.
Acts of altruism make you feel good ! Blood Donation gives the wonderful feeling of saving someone’s life.
One can diet or remain fit by donating blood regularly. One pint of blood (450 ml) when donated burns 650 calories in donor’s body.
After donating blood, the count of blood cells decreases in our body, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce new red blood cells in order to replenish the loss. So, it stimulates the production of new blood cells and refreshes the system.
Regular blood donation helps especially males in loosing iron on regular basis. It helps in reducing the chance of heart attack.
Regular blood donation (2-3 times a year) lowers cholesterol, lipid levels and hence decreases incidence of heart attacks or strokes.
What can you do about blood donation ? Make blood donation a habit, donate regularly after every 3 months, and motivate others to donate, refer your friends and relatives to donate blood.
Do always remember that if you donate money, you give food ! But if you donate blood, you give life ! The blood you donate gives someone another chance at life. One day that someone may be a close relative, a friend, a loved one – or even you.
By Dr Théophile DUSENGUMUREMYI
RBC/National Centre for Blood Transfusion