It doesn’t take a cape, a tight fitting vest and super human powers to become a hero. Sparing just 45 minutes of your time for donating blood, does!
- Is blood donation safe? Absolutely!
- Will I lose too much blood? Nope, just a pint (500ml)!
- Will I benefit from it? Yes and yes!
- And you may save more than one life for every bag of blood donated!
Want to become a blood donor? Be proud! The World Health Organization (WHO) has set aside an entire day to celebrate you!
World blood donor day
Even though we are varied in the colours of our eye, hair and skin, we are all the same when it comes to the colour of our blood. And to emphasize that, the WHO came up with this year’s World blood donor day theme as ‘Blood connects us all’!
World blood donor day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns initiated by the WHO and is celebrated worldwide every year on the 14th of June,
- to raise awareness about blood donation,
- to spread about the need for safe blood and blood products
- to thank blood donors for sharing their precious lifeline.
This day was chosen in 2004 to mark the birth anniversary of Karl Landsteiner, who won the Nobel Prize for distinguishing the main blood groups and classifying them, thus making blood transfusion possible and saving millions of life.
Why should I donate blood?
Blood is one the few precious things that has not been artificially synthesized by man (yet!). Every minute of the day, someone in a corner of the world needs blood. Hence it has to be shared from those who have it to those in need like,
- women with complications of pregnancy, such as ectopic pregnancies and haemorrhage before, during or after childbirth;
- children with severe anaemia often resulting from malaria or malnutrition;
- people with severe trauma following man-made and natural disasters;
- many complex medical and surgical procedures and cancer patients and
- patients with conditions such as thalassaemia and sickle cell disease who need regular transfusion.
Once out of the body, blood can be stored for only a limited time and hence there is a constant demand for fresh & safe blood and blood products (red cells, platelets and plasma), which can be met only with regular blood donations.
The need for voluntary unpaid donors is always increasing, as even in Singapore, there’s a need of more than 100,000 units of blood per year. WHO recommends that 1-3% of the world’s population should be blood donors to meet with the ever rising demand. This may be achievable in developed countries where there are 36 donations for every 1000 people but it is a hard uphill task for the developing countries where there are only 3 donations made for every 1000 people. The difference resulting in this huge lag may be because of the lack of awareness amongst the population along with a lack of robust infrastructure for blood collection, distribution and storage in developing countries.
Are all our blood the same?
Even though the colour of all our blood is the same, there are many different blood types in humans classified based on the type of antigens (proteins) present on the surface of red blood cells (RBC). The most important groupings are ABO blood grouping and the Rhesus blood grouping.
There are four major groups; AB, A, B and O, where the A group has A antigens, B group has B antigens, AB has both the A and B antigens while the O group has no antigens present on its RBCs. Similarly, the person’s blood can be Rhesus positive (+) or negative (-) according to the Rhesus blood grouping. In total, there can be up to 8 different types of blood, namely – AB+, AB-, A+, A-, B+, B-, O+, O-.
A person can tolerate only those antigens present in their blood group. If that person’s blood is mixed with another blood having different antigens, it may be rejected by the body, leading to a medical emergency or even death. So it is very important to crossmatch the blood types between a donor and a recipient before a transfusion is made.
The following chart clearly illustrates which donor’s blood group can match with the respective recipient blood group.
There are two groups that are unique; the AB+ and O-. The people with the AB+ blood group have all the antigens present, thus can tolerate all these antigens. Hence they can receive blood from anyone and are called ‘Universal recipients’. The people with the O- blood group have no antigens present, and they can give blood to anyone. They are called ‘Universal donors’. However, due to this same reason, the blood group O- is very rare as they can receive only from another O- blood type.
Does it benefit me?
Regular donation of blood not only benefits patients, but also the donors! According to a study reported in Medical Daily, it found that the frequency of heart attacks was lower in people who donated every 6 months. Also, donating blood lowers high iron levels, which reduces the blood consistency, thus reducing the friction the blood creates while travelling through the artery and improving overall cardiac health. Lower iron level also lowers the risk of cancer. And, up to 650 calories can be burnt with a single sitting of blood donation, which is equivalent to one hour of doing high impact aerobics!
Facts about blood donation
An average adult human have approximately 5 litres of blood in their body. Any healthy adult between 16-65 years of age who meet the required screening criteria should be able to donate blood safely and regularly. About 500ml of blood will be taken during each blood donation, which is less than 10% of the circulating blood. This loss is quickly replenished by the body in 36 hours. Donors can regularly donate blood every 12 weeks, up to 4 times a year.
I want to become a donor…but how?
If you want to become a blood donor, you can
- visit one of the Blood Collection Centre Open House set up by the Red Cross, Singapore this month at several locations, or
- visit the Blood Services section in HSA website for general information on criteria for becoming a donor, the process of donation and the locations where you can donate in Singapore.
For specific and frequently related questions you can visit the following links for more information.