According to the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), less than 1% of South Africans are active blood donors. Do you donate regularly?
There may be plenty of reasons you choose not to or are unable to donate blood. Whether you’re scared of needles, or you’re unable to donate, there is nothing better than saving a life.
“There is a disconnect between donating blood and how this helps another,” says Craig Comrie, CE and Principal Officer of Profmed. “More South Africans need to realise the importance of donating blood and to overcome their fear of giving blood.”
With World Blood Donor Day happening each year on the 14th of June, it’s a good time to reflect on why you should donate blood.
It is healthy for you to donate blood
There are quite a few health benefits to donating blood – but most importantly, donating blood is good for cardiovascular health.
You get a check-up before you donate – Before donating, the nurses check your iron (haemoglobin) levels, blood pressure and pulse rate to see if you’re fit to donate. If any of these are not in range, you’re not allowed to donate.
Reduced risk of heart disease and high cholesterol – When you donate blood, you also donate the iron attached to your red blood cells. While iron helps to transport oxygen around your body, too much iron can lead to excess deposits in the liver, heart and pancreas, where it can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer, irregular heartbeat or even diabetes.
Note: Even though donating blood is healthy, we still recommend a healthy diet and exercise to help keep you on track.
You can save up to three lives with one donation
When you donate blood, you donate what is called “whole blood”. But what happens after you have donated? What do patients actually receive when they need a transfusion?
Once your blood reaches a SANBS lab, your blood is tested to check if it is safe for transfusion, thereafter it will get split into three parts:
- Plasma – used to treat patients with clotting factor deficiencies.
- Red Blood Cells – used to treat patients with anaemia, or blood loss due to surgeries, accidents or even crime-related injuries.
- Platelets – used to treat patients with low platelet count. They tend to bleed excessively, even from minor injuries.
“We need to share more direct information with blood donors, so they can see the difference they make in people’s lives. From how many litres of blood they’ve donated, to how many lives they have helped and saved. We need to share personable stories of how donors have helped others. For example, in other countries, a donor receives a thank you message from someone that benefited from your blood. This makes donating more personal,” adds Comrie.
Put yourself in their shoes
Just put yourself in the position of a family member needing blood, and there is no supply. For them, it may be the difference between life and death to receive a transfusion. By becoming a regular donor, you can help save lives. All it takes is a small needle prick, and a bit of your time every 56 days.
Overcome your fear and donate today
You have probably seen or heard advertisements asking for blood donations when blood supplies are running low, especially over holiday periods when accident rates also increase. That’s because of the low donor rate in South Africa, which often leads to blood shortages during critical times.
The SANBS aims to collect 3 000 units of blood a day across South Africa. You can help by donating blood every 56 days. Keep in mind that blood only lasts for 42 days after donation, it cannot be kept indefinitely, and that’s why the SANBS needs a steady supply of blood to those who need it most.
What do you need to become a blood donor?
- First-time donors need to be ages of 16 and 65 years old
- You need to weigh a minimum of 50kgs
- You are in good health
- You lead a low-risk lifestyle
- You consider your blood safe for transfusion
- You have had a balanced meal within four hours of donating blood
- You have not donated blood in the last 56 days
- Your pulse is between 50-100 regular beats per minute
However, the SANBS urges self-exclusion from donating blood when you are being treated for HIV/AIDS, there is a chance that you may have been exposed to HIV/AIDS and you are being treated for a sexually transmitted infection.
To find your nearest SANBS Donor Centre, visit www.sanbs.org.za today to help save a life.