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National Blood Donor Month, June 2011 and World Blood Donor Day, 14 June 2011
When Lindiwe Baloyi* left home to go to work at the Department of Home Affairs one chilly winter morning last year, she had no idea that her life would soon be saved by the actions of a complete stranger. That morning Lindiwe was in a terrible accident and had to be rushed to hospital. She had lost so much blood that the doctors thought she might die. But thanks to the blood that she received via transfusion, Lindiwe survived. The person who had donated the blood had helped to save her life.
As part of the Government Employees Medical Scheme's (GEMS) ongoing effort to educate our members and future members on a range of healthcare topics, we would like to share real life member stories with you. This article explores the subject of blood donation this National Blood Donor Month and World Blood Donor Day.
A precious source of life
Blood is vital for the survival of human beings. It carries oxygen and nutrients all over the body and helps to remove waste from cells. Sometimes a small wound may cause one to lose a little blood, but the body is easily able to survive this. However, if too much blood is lost it can be very dangerous to one's health and even result in death.
When a person has lost too much blood it is necessary to replace this blood quickly in order to save his or her live. The only way to do this is via blood transfusion. Blood transfusion is a medical treatment that replaces the blood lost in one person with the donated blood of another person. The donated blood is stored in a bag and is given to the recipient via a tube into his or her vein. Blood transfusions are also performed on people suffering from blood-related illnesses who require new and healthy blood cells. According to the World Health Organisation, blood transfusion saves lives and improves health. Lindiwe is living proof of this.
There are four different types of blood, namely A, B, AB and O. These are further classified by either a negative or positive, which is simply a way of determining different blood types. For example, one person may be A positive and another A negative. They are both of the blood group A but there are differences in their blood. This is totally unrelated to HIV status. Whether a person is of a negative or positive blood type has nothing to do with whether they are HIV positive or negative. A person can be an A positive blood type but be HIV negative and vice versa.
Each person has a particular blood type and can give blood to any other person of the same type. Type O is always in demand as it can be given to patients of any blood group in an emergency. However, it is not only important for type O people to donate blood. A, B and AB blood is still used in transfusions to people of the same type and this can save the use of type O for emergency situations.
Easy, safe and free of charge
In South Africa, blood donation is done through the South African National Blood Service (SANBS). Donating blood is easy, totally safe and free of charge. It only takes about 30 minutes to donate blood and it can be donated regularly, every 56 days.
You cannot contract HIV by donating blood. Trained staff conduct all blood donation procedures and follow strict safety protocols. All finger-prick lancets and needles are sterile and used once only, after which they are disposed of in special medical waster containers and incinerated. There has never been an incident of a donor contracting HIV from donating blood.
Giving safe blood
All blood that is donated is tested for transmissible diseases. However, you should not donate blood unless you know that your blood is safe to give to another person. The following are people who should not donate blood:
o People who are HIV positive or think that they might be
o People who have hepatitis B, hepatitis C or syphilis
o People who have had more than one sexual partner in the last six months or sexual contact with a partner whose sexual history is unknown to them
o People who have ever injected themselves with drugs
There are also certain medications that you may be taking or have taken recently that may prevent you from donating blood. Information about safe blood is given when you go to donate blood and you will be asked to fill out a confidential questionnaire about certain risk factors such as these.
Who can donate blood?
To donate blood you have to:
More blood - more life
June is National Blood Donor Month, which is anchored around World Blood Donor Day on 14 June. This is an annual commemoration of blood donation and is held to raise awareness around the importance of blood donation while thanking those who donate their blood for saving lives.
Lindiwe says that since her accident last year she has become a regular donor and has inspired many of her family members and friends to do the same. "Before my accident I hardly knew anything about donating blood and probably would never have even considered it. But now I know how important it is. If it weren't for the people who donate blood I would not be alive today. I still think it is amazing that just by spending half an hour of your time to give blood every few months you can save lives."
This year the theme for World Blood Donor Day is: "More blood. More life." People all around the world are encouraged to donate blood and to become regular donors to ensure that blood stocks remain in constant supply.
For more information about donating blood and to find a SANBS clinic near you please call the SANBS toll free number on 0800 11 90 31.
If you would like to know how GEMS can assist you to obtain more information about any of your healthcare needs, you can phone the GEMS call centre on 0860 00 4367 or send a SMS to 083 450 4367. GEMS will assist you in every way possible to ensure your family's health and well-being.
*The member's name has been changed in order to protect her identity.
1. The South African National Blood Service, www.sanbs.org.za
2. The World Health Organisation, www.who.int
3. World Blood Donor Day, www.wbdd.org
4. The Department of Health, www.doh.co.za