Giving blood is safe and simple, but whether you are a donor or non-donor, you may have questions about how it all works and what donating or hosting means to your community.
Four main blood types
About 40, 000 units of blood are needed every day. There are four main blood types: A, B, AB and O.
Type O- is the universal blood donor and type AB+ is the universal recipient. Whole blood is composed of three main components: red cells, plasma and platelets. 13 tests (11 for infectious diseases) are performed on each unit of donated blood.
One unit of blood can support up to three lives. Shortages of any blood type can happen at any time, especially during the summer and winter months. Every two seconds, someone needs blood. Each year, a vast amount of people die without blood transfusions. Car accident victims can require red blood cell transfusions of 50 units or more. Severe burn victims require approximately 20 units of plasma during treatment.
Children being treated for cancer, premature infants and children having heart surgery need blood and platelets from donors of all types, especially type O. Some patients with complications from severe sickle cell disease receive blood transfusions every month, up to four units at a time.
A patient could be forced to pass up a lifesaving organ if compatible blood is not available to support the transplant.
Doing the right thing
Donating blood involves four easy steps. The four steps are:
- Getting a medical history review;
- Getting a quick physical exam - checking temperature, blood pressure, pulse and haemoglobin to ensure it is safe to give blood;
- Donating blood; and lastly
- Eating snacks to sustain energy.
The whole blood donation process only takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes. After donating blood, you replace the fluid in hours and the red blood cells within four weeks. It takes eight weeks to restore the iron lost after donating.
Donating blood is especially important if someone has blood type O negative which means they are universal donors and their blood can be used for all types of medical emergencies without testing. In fact, your one blood donation will be broken down into several components, enabling you, with just one donation, to save up to three lives!
A donor can donate blood every 56 days, but because blood lasts only 42 days after donation, regular donors are essential for sustainability. There are far fewer donors than recipients, so blood is always in short supply. Therefore, it is vital not to view a donation as a once-off exercise.
Your nearest blood donation centre
The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) provides an essential service within South Africa and is rated amongst the best in the world in the provision of blood and blood products, as well as in relation to the research and training provided.
Blood donors are true heroes. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have helped save lives.
Find your nearest blood donation centre and help save others - https://sanbs.org.za/donor-centres/