June is the national blood donor month in South Africa. Since less than 1% of the population are active blood donors, it is important that we are reminded of how far a donation can really go.
Khensani Mahlangu, communications specialist at the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), tells us that wintertime for donating blood can be a dry season.
“We typically have difficulty collecting as much blood during school holidays and in the winter months as we would normally do at any other time of the year,” she says.
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As we settle in 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 SANBS donation centers have remained open throughout the vesting period.
"Donating blood is more than just sitting in a chair for a few minutes and going out with a cookie and some juice – it's really about changing someone else's life," says Mahlangu.
Here are five reasons why you should consider donating blood today:
1 / Your blood goes further than you think
Mahlangu explains that each donated blood unit is divided into three parts: red blood cells, plasma and platelets. If you donate blood, all three parts can be used for three different people.
2 / Positive effects on the quality of life of others
There are people with chronic illnesses who need to receive blood transfusions weekly / biweekly so that they can continue to lead a normal, healthy life. The availability of this blood means everything to them.
“Someone with anemia may need regular red blood cell transfusions, for example to go to work, go to school, or even go shopping – all of which we often take for granted. Being able to get 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 is also used to save the lives of people who have had a traumatic event.
"This can be anything from a car accident to a woman bleeding during childbirth," says Mahlangu.
4 / You don't have to donate real blood
You don't have to donate all of your blood when you visit a donation center. "We also only accept donations from plasma or platelets," says Mahlangu.
How exactly does it work? Well, they connect you to a machine where your blood goes through a process that separates your red blood cells from your plasma. From there, they bring your red blood cells back into your body.
"People who only donate plasma can come in more often than people who donate whole blood," she explains.
5 / Contribution to COVID-19 treatment research (if previously diagnosed)
The SANBS is currently in a clinical trial examining how blood can be used to treat COVID-19. This study essentially investigates whether convalescent plasma (from people who have recovered from COVID-19) may be effective in the treatment of COVID-19.
To qualify, you must have fully recovered from the virus and, among other things, be symptom-free for at least 28 days. The process is pretty much the same as that described above (4).
6 / Finally, it is completely safe
Many people may be careful about visiting a fundraising center because of COVID-19, but Mahlangu says they followed all precautions … and a few more.
She tells us that all employees are checked daily and every donor is thoroughly checked before entering the center (part of the screening also includes a questionnaire). The centers are wiped before and after daily use and, among other things, the temperature of all is measured.
"You can be sure that you will be protected."
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