The A to Z of blood donation

  •   by Medihelp
  •   15 June 2016
  •   52 view(s)
Doctors and surgeons rely on blood donations to carry out life-saving and life-enhancing treatments every day.

Why should I donate?
Donating a unit of this “precious gift of life” can save the lives of those in dire need of blood. We should develop a habit of donating blood in order for the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) to collect sufficient blood and ensure that quality blood is always available for patients in emergencies. The more regularly you donate, the better the chance that the full components of your donated unit will be used.

So, how does blood donation work?
If you are donating blood for the first time, your red blood cells won’t be used right away. Your plasma will be quarantined until your next donation. If all tests come back negative after your second donation, the quarantined plasma from your first donation will be used.
This also applies if you haven’t donated blood for a while.

Once you have made three donations and your blood still tests negative for sexually transmissible infections, all the components of your blood can be used. You have to donate blood regularly.

What is regular donation?
People can donate blood every 56 days. A regular donor is someone who has made three or more donations in a year.

How is donated blood used?
In most cases, your blood will be separated into its component parts so it can be used to treat a variety of conditions. These components are:

• Red blood cells – used to treat some types of anaemia and replace blood lost as the result of an accident.
• Platelets – used to treat problems with bone marrow, such as leukaemia and people with blood clotting disorders.
• Plasma – used to treat conditions where abnormal clotting causes bleeding, such as liver disease, and where large volumes of blood have been lost.

Donated blood may also be used to improve the quality of life of people with a terminal illness.

Who needs blood?
Thousands of patients would die daily if there is insufficient quality blood in stock. When you donate blood, you give these patients the gift money cannot buy and science cannot create. A unit (480 ml) of blood can save up to three lives, as blood is separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.

What blood group is needed the most?
Group O Rh negative blood can be transfused to anyone, so these donors are referred to as “universal donors”. Group O Rh negative patients on the other hand, can only receive group O Rh negative blood. Group O blood is the most versatile, and an adequate supply of group O blood is vital. If, for instance, group A blood is not in stock, group O blood will be used. However, all blood groups are required to ensure adequate stock at all times.

What is safe blood?
Blood is deemed safe once the tests for HIV, hepatitis B & C and syphilis show that it is clear.

Who qualifies to become a blood donor?
If you are between the ages of 16 and 65, weigh more than 50 kg and lead a sexually safe lifestyle, you can visit a clinic and register as a blood donor.

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