World Blood Donor Day is on 14 June, and highlights that all of us - individuals, communities and corporate South Africa – can play a role in saving lives by donating blood
Donating blood has the power to save lives. According to the South African National Blood Services (SANBS), one unit of blood can save up to three lives at a time, but currently less than one percent of South Africans are active blood donors – indicating a dire need to recruit more active donors.
Blood that is donated is separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets – which is critical for patients across the spectrum including people battling illnesses such as cancer, those undergoing surgery, accident trauma patients, children and adults with severe anaemia, women haemorrhaging from pregnancy or gynaecological complications, and premature babies.
“Transfusions are essential to the survival of these patients, so as healthcare providers committed to providing the highest quality of compassionate care we recognise the importance of blood donation,” says Dr Tony Booysen, Regional Clinical Manager at Life Healthcare.
“Having just commemorated National Cancer Survivors Day at the beginning of June, we would like to focus on the critical role of blood donation and transfusion in people battling cancer, in particular. These patients rely heavily on blood donation and transfusion as it assists with recovery for cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or bone marrow transplantation, or the cancer itself which may make a blood transfusion a necessity.
Transfusions also help increase the production of white blood cells, as well as pass on other critical blood components needed by cancer patients: haemoglobin in red blood cells helps treat anaemia, which can be a by-product of cancer or cancer treatment; plasma, which the patient may need if they have experienced severe bleeding; and platelets to prevent life-threatening bleeding.
Cancer patients who suffer from any of these conditions will require a transfusion of the specific component needed – aside from the basic red and white blood cells, plasma or platelets, this may also include Cryoprecipitate transfusions to replace several blood clotting factors.
The 14th June is World Blood Donor – a day to celebrate all blood donors who have continued to go out of their way the save the lives of those in need of blood. #NotAllHeroesWearCapes #WorldBloodDonorDay pic.twitter.com/TlxRsL2t6e— The SANBS (@theSANBS) June 12, 2019
“These are just part of the many reasons you should donate blood. In people with underlying iron overload, for example, donating blood can assist in lowering the iron overload. But perhaps the most important thing about donating your blood is the feeling of joy that comes with knowing that you are saving a human life,” says Dr Pheello Lethola at SANBS.
How do you know if you are eligible for donation, then? Anyone can donate, provided you are between 16 and 75, weigh over 50 kilograms or 55kgs for platelets, are in good health with a pulse rate of between 50 and 100 beats per minute, do not have high or low blood pressure, and have eaten a solid meal. Screening tests are carried out before each donation, where these and other factors are checked.
Once you have passed the screening test, you can then either donate a unit of blood, platelets, plasma or arrange an autologous donation. The process differs depending on the type of donation: a unit is removed via a needle inserted into a vein in the arm, while platelet and plasma donations require a cell separator that filters out the necessary components and returns the other components to the donor’s system. Autologous donations involve donating blood for yourself before a pre-planned surgery.
“Blood donation is absolutely critical to saving the lives of cancer and other patients, and as such Life Healthcare supports and encourages everyone to play an active role – either as an individual by donating blood at one of the many donation centres across South Africa, or as an organisation by starting a blood drive at your place of work, which we do on a regular basis,” says Dr Booysens.