June is National Blood Donor Month in South Africa, and with less than 1% of the population being active blood donors, it’s important that we’re reminded just how far one donation can really go.
“Typically, during the school holiday season and in winter months we tend to struggle to collect as much blood as we usually would at any other time of the year,” she says.
As we settle into the winter season and COVID-19 cases continue to grow exponentially, we should think about some of the positive things we can do in this ‘dark’ time – and donating blood is one of those things. Fortunately, blood donation is an essential service, and the SANBS donation centres have remained open throughout the lockdown period.
“Donating blood is more than just sitting on a chair for a couple of minutes and walking out with a cookie and some juice – it’s really about changing someone else’s life,” Mahlangu says.
Here are five reasons you should consider donating blood today:
1/ Your blood goes further than you think
Mahlangu explains that every donated unit of blood is separated into three parts: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. When you donate blood, all three parts can be used for three different people.
2/ Positively impact someone else’s quality of life
There are people who live with chronic conditions that require them to receive blood transfusions weekly/bi-weekly just so they can continue to lead normal, healthy lives. The availability of that blood means everything to them.
“Someone with anaemia, for example, might need regular transfusions of red blood cells to do things like go to work, go to school, or even to go grocery shopping – all the things we often take for granted. Being able to receive blood dramatically improves their quality of life.”
3/ Actually save someone’s life
Not only is your blood used for people who need frequent blood transfusions, but it’s also used to save the lives of people who have experienced a traumatic incident.
“This can be anything from a car accident to a woman hemorrhaging during childbirth,” Mahlangu says.
4/ You don’t have to donate actual blood
You don’t actually have to donate all of your blood when visiting a donation centre. “We also accept donations of just plasma or platelets,” Mahlangu says.
How exactly does this work? Well, they’ll connect you to a machine where your blood will go through a process that separates your red blood cells from your plasma. From there, they return your red blood cells to your body.
“People who only donate plasma are able to come in more frequently than people who donate whole blood,” she explains.
5/ Contribute to COVID-19 treatment research (if you’ve previously been diagnosed)
The SANBS is currently busy with a clinical trial exploring ways that blood can be used for the treatment of COVID-19. In this trial, they’ll basically be looking at whether convalescent plasma (from people that have recovered from COVID-19) could possibly be effective in treating COVID-19.
To qualify, you have to have fully recovered from the virus and be free of symptoms for at least 28 days, amongst other criteria. The process is pretty much the same as the one explained in the point above (4).
6/ Lastly, it’s completely safe
A lot of people might be wary of visiting a donation centre because of COVID-19, but Mahlangu says they’ve adhered to every precaution measure… and then some.
She tells us that all the staff are screened daily and every donor is screened thoroughly before they enter the centre (part of the screening also involves a questionnaire). The centres are wiped down before and after use daily and everyone’s temperature is taken, amongst other screening measures.
“You can rest assured that you will be protected.”