May 2015

Your blood can make a difference

Wriiten by South African National Blood Service
Many people don’t realise donating blood can make a world of difference to the lives of others. Donating a unit of blood is an important and much needed service that can save lives.

By donating blood, donors are helping the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) to have a supply of blood to help when a blood transfusion is needed urgently.

In South Africa a blood transfusion takes place every 48 seconds, a minimum of 810 000 units of blood are required annually to meet the South African demand.

A blood transfusion is a lifesaving medical procedure that is done to replace blood lost during surgery or due to a serious injury. A transfusion also may be done if your body can't make blood properly because of an illness.

Currently SANBS, a non-profit organisation that provides human blood for transfusion in South Africa, has a donor base of only 432 000, which is less than one percent of our population. This means that more donors are needed especially because the SANBS relies solely on donors who willingly donate blood to help save lives.

Who needs blood?
There is a daily demand for blood and there are many patients who need blood transfusion on a weekly basis to survive. Patients who need blood transfusions:

  • Women who bleed due to pregnancy complications
  • Children with severe anaemia
  • Accident victims
  • Surgical and cancer patients.

You cannot donate blood if you:

  • Have low blood pressure
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have low haemoglobin (iron)
  • Are pregnant
  • Have had surgery recently.

Are there any risks?
There are no risks when donating blood. A finger-prick test is done to check that your iron level is within a safe range to donate blood.

The materials used for blood donation, including the needle, blood bags, tubes and finger prick needle are new, sterile and disposable. Once they have been used they are dumped in a specialised waste container and destroyed.

People who participate in unsafe lifestyle behavior such as casual unsafe sex, male-to-male unsafe sex or taking intravenous drugs are advised not to donate blood.

Pre-donation tips:

  • Eat a balanced meal at least four hours before you donate
  • Check if you are legible to donate blood.

Post-donation tips:

  • Eat well to increase your fluid intake for four to six hours:
  • Do not smoke for at least 30 minutes
  • Do not lift heavy objects with the arm used for donating, for at least two hours.
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