The international Blood Donor Day is coming soon. On the July 14th, many countries will join in thanking voluntary donors for their valuable gift. Blood donation is a service that helps millions of people with life-threatening diseases or suffering from deadly injuries or during surgery. Having a competent blood donation system is an important characteristic of a country with an effective healthcare system.
The blood supply can only be sustained through voluntary donations. Therefore, each individual donation is an important and noble contribution to public health.
What is blood donation?
Blood donation is the process in which blood is collected, tested, prepared, and stored. Donors tend to be unpaid volunteers. However, less frequently, a donor can receive money from an enterprise as a way to encourage further donations.
All institutions capable and willing to take blood donations need to first be acknowledged by the government. They keep a detailed Blood Registry for collection and sharing of data about donated blood and donors. This helps protecting the patient receiving the blood, since it can detect donors with unsuitable blood.
The precise details for the process of blood donation change a bit depending of the country and legal context but most, if not all cases include:
Registration: You identify yourself and complete some paperwork.
Examination: A member of the personal ask you some questions to have an idea of your medical history. They then perform some non-intrusive physical examinations which usually includes taking blood from the tip of one of your fingers.
Donation: If you’ve ever had your blood drawn before, then you know most of the process. The main difference is the duration of the process and the amount of blood taken. 0.5 L of blood which is the usual amount and the time can be from 15 minutes to hours depending on the type of blood donation.
Refreshments: Some food and drinks will be provided for you to help your body recover from the process. Also, you should avoid intense physical activity for at least 10 minutes.
Types of blood donation
Whole blood donation is the most common and versatile one. It takes around 1 hour and is usually given to trauma patients. The whole blood can also be separated into its main 3 components (red cells, platelets and plasma) to help people with deficiency of any of these elements.
Platelet donation is extremely important because platelets can be used in cancer patients, organ transplant and surgery. This process involves an “apheresis machine” which collects the platelets from your blood. It then gives you back the remaining plasma and red cells. The process can take up to 3 hours but each donation can help thousands of people.
Red cell donation is a bit similar to platelet donation in that an element of your whole blood is separated (the red cells). The cells are used to people with conditions that make them need these red cells frequently. Newborns, trauma patients and anyone suffering from blood loss. The process takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Specialty donations are simply blood donations from people with a rare or uncommon blood type. People with AB, O and O+ CMV+ are encouraged to donate frequently. Some people become specialty donors by donating specifically to a particular group. Such is the case of sickle cell donors, people who donate to local individuals suffering from sickle cell anemia.
Benefits for blood receivers
Millions of people are saved by blood transfusion each year. Those in danger of dying during surgery, after a severe trauma, while living with a chronic condition, organ donors and many more have blood donors to thank for being alive.
A single unit of blood can save up to 4 people. With constant advancements in the preservation technology, a single donation may eventually help people for years and years.
Benefits for blood donors
For receivers, blood transfusions can save/ change their lives, but there are plenty of benefits for blood donors, especially if they do it frequently.
Helps maintaining normal levels of iron in the blood, reducing the risk of heart diseases and atherosclerosis.
It stimulates the formation of new blood cells, renewing the system.
The process helps losing weight because it causes you to burn around 650 calories each time.
Helping others in such a meaningful way is good for mental health.
With each evaluation, previous to a donation, the chances of detecting the early phases of a life-threatening disease increases. It thus gives a donor more chances of survival with early treatment. If chronic diseases run in your family, frequent blood donations may help you find treatment before is too late.