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Lessons From A First Time Blood Donor

How you can save a life this world blood donor day

World Blood Donor Day is fast approaching, 14 June internationally, and 11 June in SA. I’d never really thought of donating blood, well there was this one time after I’d left school but I was on Roaccutane treatment at the time (those darned teenage hormones!) so was never fit to donate in any case. It was only in my later life that I was approached by the local South African National Blood Service (SANBS) office to assist them with a blood drive in my, then capacity as Mrs Port Elizabeth (yea, we haven’t really discussed this, but we’ll leave that for another day shall we?)

We had set up in a shopping mall, offering free blood group testing services for potential donors or any member of the public. It was on that day that I donated blood for the first time, which really went off quite well. See me below, I didn’t look too freaked out, did I?

Donating blood for SANBS Port Elizabeth

Shortly after that day I attended a Thank You breakfast hosted by SANBS, an experience, I’ll never forget. A young woman, in her early twenties, gave us a very nervous yet touching story of how the generosity of blood donors had saved her life. She had suffered from a condition that left her requiring regular platelet transfusions, I cannot remember exactly what the condition was as I was just soaking up the raw, emotional appreciation she was radiating. It was beautiful!

You see, I never realised then that just one unit of blood can save three lives. I never realised what a rare commodity blood is, because someone else is always donating, aren’t they? I also didn’t know that blood banks sometimes run on one day’s worth of stock. You guys, if there is only one day’s stock of wine in my house I get antsy!

What you need to know about donating blood:

  • Donating blood takes 30minutes. You’ll fill out a questionnaire, have your blood pressure, glucose and HB checked, and then you’ll relax in a lazy boy and check your Facebook feed while you give the gift of life.
  • You will donate 480ml of blood. It seems like a lot, but your body will replace this fluid in 24 hours – all in a day’s work 😉
  • Type O negative blood is the most versatile. That means it can be given to any patient with any blood type. It is also most commonly given to newborns as it is often difficult to ascertain what blood group they are in an emergency. Type O blood is also the most common blood group in South Africa, accounting for 46% of the population.
  • You cannot get infections from donating blood. It seems pretty weird that this needs explaining, but it’s alarming how many people are under the impression that donating blood is unsafe. It isn’t. All equipment used is sterile and disposable, meaning it gets used on one patient then gets discarded and incinerated.
  • SANBS collects over one million units of blood per year. That’s right – one million! And every single one of those units is tested for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis.
  • Reasons that deem you unfit for donation include: if you haven’t eaten a decent meal beforehand, you’re pregnant, you have low blood pressure, you have high blood pressure, you’re currently ill, or you weigh less than 50kg.
  • Tips for post-donation include: do not use the arm from which you donated to lift heavy objects for at least two hours, avoid strenuous activity, avoid smoking for the first 30min, increase your fluid intake and eat well.

Still skeptical are you? This video puts all the emotions I felt after listening to the young survivor speak at the breakfast into 30 seconds. It’s worth a watch.


So how about it? Let’s donate for World Blood Donor Day! For more information visit the SANBS website, or stop by your nearest SANBS centre and chat with one of their sisters.

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