Christmas is approaching and we are all making our wish lists! But what if each of us could give the gift of life? You can! Here in Jamaica we always have a shortage of blood and a high demand for blood and blood products. Unfortunately, it takes serious events to get the blood bank full because of pleas and cries of the public.
I have had a close family member who benefited from blood, during this time I had to go around asking for donations. Luckily, my colleagues, friends and even strangers were nice enough to donate on that family member’s behalf. We did not need all the blood we got, but I remember dropping off the slips and the workers at the blood bank telling me that we were doing wonders for them and to keep encouraging people to donate.
The only thing that can replace blood is blood, there is nothing better. Many persons (around the world) get substandard medical care because of the lack of blood and having to prioritize and ration the already short supply. We need much more education around blood donation and we need to dispel myths.
The safest donations are voluntary, this is why we can’t offer incentives other than a great feeling and knowing your donation has the potential to save several lives. When donations are voluntary it increases the quality of the blood. We cannot put a price on blood.
So let’s talk.
Donating blood is bad for my health.
No- You cannot get any infections after donating blood and there are very specific criteria which ensure that those who donate blood won’t experience any ill effects. Health wise, in order to donate you must be in good health and have an adequate blood count and they will test this at the time of donation. Read more on what is meant by good health and donating here.
Blood donation is painful.
Now this is fairly subjective. A lot of us are afraid of needles and that drives a lot of the fear with donation. From my own personal experience the most painful part is the needle stick- which honestly is not that bad and doesn’t last very long. Most of the phlebotomists in the blood donation centre are skilled enough to only stick once! Everything else is absolutely pain free.
Am I eligible to donate?
This is a loaded question. There are various criteria which may differ from country to country. In general there is a maximum and minimum age to donate, about 17 to 60, there is a minimum weight, in general about 110 pounds. Other things are also taken into consideration such as, having a recent piercing or tattoo, having a recent or current viral illness or having a low blood count. Each time you go to donate these questions are asked over and over again regardless of how often you go.
How often can I donate?
In Jamaica it is every 3 months, some countries go as low as every 2 months.
Where can I donate?
In Jamaica we have designated collection centres. Here’s a list.
What will the blood be used for?
The blood would treat persons who have lost blood due to trauma. Persons who have various types of anaemias, which is when there is a deficiency of red blood cells or the molecule in the red blood cell that carries oxygen, and used as replacement during life saving surgeries. Among other uses.
Walk me through the process.
Once you have decided you want to donate blood, you will go to any of the collection centres closest to you. They will ask you several questions to see if you are eligible, if you are, they will then test your blood type and if you have enough to be able to give safely. The procedure of taking the blood is completely sterile so there is no cross contamination. It takes a few minutes to fill the bag, they also take samples for testing for various diseases. When it’s finished you will be given something sweet and asked to stay a while just so they can monitor you. Then you go about your day feeling great knowing you saved lives!
If you would like to know more about blood donation, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has a great document on the topic and for Jamaica specific information the National Blood Transfusion Service has a dedicated website . Other pages that I have linked also have more information. You can speak to your doctor or visit your local blood donation centre to see if you’re eligible to donate and answer any questions you may have.
Comment below what are your thoughts on blood donation and remember to encourage others about the benefits of blood!
Samantha C. Johnson