World Blood Donor Day is celebrated annually on 14 June to raise awareness for the cause and give recognition to the millions of people who donate blood on a voluntarily to save lives.
It’s vital that we raise awareness of the need for safe blood, to thank and honour those blood donors who make transfusion possible and to encourage regular blood donation by suitable donors. Why?
Let’s take Nepal, for example. In 2015, Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake and hundreds of volunteers came forward to donate blood. Had it not been for Nepal’s blood supply, the story would have had a tragic end, despite volunteers stepping up.
At that point, Nepal had already built up a substantial supply of blood thanks to years of hard work in raising awareness and creating a culture of voluntary blood donation.
Donating blood: The fact sheet
Between 2008 and 2015, an increase of 11.6m blood donations were received from voluntary unpaid donors.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 117.4m blood donations are collected globally. Of those donations, about 42% are collected in high-income countries, home to 16% of the world’s population.
In low-income countries, more than half of all blood transfusions are given to children under the age of five. In high-income countries, about three-quarters of all donations are given to patients over the age of 65.
World Blood Donor Day 2019
This year’s theme and key messages
The slogan – ‘Safe blood for all’ – was developed to raise awareness for the universal need for safe blood. It is vital with regards to delivery of health care and universal health coverage.
The WHO states that “the theme of this year’s campaign is blood donation and universal access to safe blood transfusion, as a component of achieving universal health coverage.”
On World Blood Donor Day, governments, national health authorities and national blood services are urged to provide adequate resources and create a culture of donating blood.
However, our focus on donating blood shouldn’t be contained to only one day out of 365 days. No. It should be part of our routine throughout the year. That brings us to the next question.
What can you do?
In addition to becoming a blood donor and committing to donating blood regularly throughout the year, you could also encourage your friends and family to become regular blood donors.
You could also volunteer with the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) and help manage blood donation drives, reach out to members and raise awareness when the opportunity arises.
At the time of publishing, the SANBS has five days worth of blood stock, and a platelet stock of 0.3 days. All the more reason for more citizens to become donors.
Unfortunately, less than 1% of South African citizens are active blood donors. According to the SANBS, a unit of blood lasts only 42 days, that is why it’s vital for donors to donate blood regularly throughout the year.
“Every unit of blood can save a minimum of three lives as blood is separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.”
Donating Blood: Frequently asked questions
Who can donate blood?
Health and age
South African citizens between the ages of 16 and 75 who are in good health can donate blood.
In most countries, the age bracket is from 18 to 65. However, different countries will permit younger and senior citizens to donate blood if they fulfil the criteria.
The minimum weight requirement to donate blood is 50 kgs, and to donate platelets is 55 kgs. You cannot donate blood if you have a cold, flu, sore throat, cold sore, stomach bug or an infection.
Your haemoglobin levels must be 12.5 g/dL or above and your pulse must be between 50 and 100 regular beats per minute. Fear not, the SANBS’s screening test will measure if you are within a safe range to donate blood.
Can you give blood if you have tattoos or piercings?
Yes. I’m covered in tattoos and have several piercings and I’ve been a blood donor since 2015. However, and this is important: you cannot donate blood if you’ve had a tattoo or body piercing in the last six months.
Infections can happen, so be honest about when you got that new ink, and don’t try to cheat the system. After all, lives are at risk.
Many people might say that they cannot donate blood because they get tattoos regularly. Well, if you are serious about donating blood regularly too but also want to keep adding to your tattoo collection, consider doing this:
Save up all your tattoo funds, take one year off from donating and schedule all tattoo appointments between January and May.
Once the 6-month waiting period is over, you can start donating blood again regularly from the following year, and hopefully keep it going for a few years before you need to get inked again.
When can’t you donate blood?
You cannot donate blood if you have tested positive for HIV, if you have been exposed to HIV/AIDS, or if you are being treated for a sexually transmitted disease.
Furthermore, you cannot donate blood if you lead a high-risk lifestyle. This includes having sex with or working as a commercial sex worker; as well as having multiple sexual partners or having sex with someone who has multiple partners.
In addition, you cannot donate blood if you “inject yourself with drugs, or are being injected by someone other than your doctor or health care worker.”
Also take note:
You need to have a balanced meal an hour before donating blood. In addition. And your blood pressure must be below 180 systolic and 100 diastolic, and above 100 systolic and 60 diastolic. So that is between 180/100 and 100/60.
It’s painless, really. It’s a prick on the finger, a prick on your arm and it’s over super quick.
I have a fear of needles; tattoos aside, because yes it really is different. And I still manage to survive each session. Yes, I may need to give myself a 5-minute pep talk, but I survive, and so will you. So, go donate blood. You got this!