Give some of your precious life-blood

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) recently held a blood drive here at the Daily Dispatch office where I donated my 22nd pint of blood. To celebrate this milestone, I thought I’d talk about how blood donation works and why you should totally do it if you can.

Donating is easy enough. First, locate your nearest SANBS branch. – f For example, mine is the one at 25 Pearce Street in Berea. The SANBS also does frequent blood drives in public locations, so you can donate on the go.

The requirements for donating are rather extensive, but not all that hard to understand.
You have to be between the ages of 16 and 75, weigh a minimum of 50kg, have eaten within the last four hours, and be generally healthy.

All donors will have to fill in an extensive lifestyle survey and this might put some people off – when I say extensive, I mean extensive and potential donors will have to disclose facts, such as HIV status and even their sex lives.

This isn’t because the SANBS is a bunch of pervs, however. There are many potential diseases that can be spread via blood such as hepatitis and HIV/Aids.

The SANBS needs to exercise the strictist of screening methods in order avoid infecting recipients. So yeah, it may feel uncomfortable to tell complete strangers that you had a one-night stand last weekend, but there is an important reason behind it.

Once SANBS staff are satisfied you’re healthy enough to donate, all that’s left is to sit down and let them stick that big scary needle in the appropriate arm.

So what happens to your precious life fluid once its been drained out of your body by the most friendly group of vampires ever?

Well, once the blood arrives at the appropriate facility, the first thing the SANBS does is to separate it into its three components: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Each component is then heavily tested to make sure there’s no risk of infection. Once it’s known to be safe, the blood is stored until requested by hospitals.

Finally, let’s talk about why you should donate.

Simply put, each donation has the potential to save three lives. One donation, once separated, can be used on three different patients so this isn’t just a catchy marketing spin. People in desperate need of blood, include premature babies, trauma patients, those undergoing surgery, and many more. Without a ready supply of blood, all of these people could very easily die.

At the time of writing, synthesizsing blood is still a long way off, so donations are the only way hospitals can get the blood they need (the same goes for organ donations).
So if you are able donate, I strongly recommend you go out and do so.

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