Thursday, 10 March 2016

Mobile blood donation clinics

The South African National Blood Service has an amazing network of mobile clinics that cater to schools, universities, large offices and small towns. Also blood drives at shopping centres. I benefited from the convenience of this on Tuesday when I visited the Parys mobile clinic to make my donation.

For many years I've been donating regularly at the fixed donor clinic in Bruma. I always time my donations to be 'available' during the xmas-New Year period when blood is in high demand. As I moved to Parys in December, I went to the fixed clinic in Potchefstroom while in the town for other errands.

In last week's Paryz Gazette, our knock-and-drop community newspaper, I saw a note about a mobile clinic on 8 March. I went along.

They have an excellent set up in the hall of a local church (we have no shortage of these in this town!) and according to the SANBS guy that I spoke to, Parys is very well supported. They have clinics on the second Tuesday of every month to cater to two groups of donors (you can donate every 52 days). At each clinic they usually receive just over 100 donations.

For comparison, my old centre in Jo'burg receives between 280-350 per month. Open six days a week and open till late on week nights.

I took Ruben along with me (Kyla was at gymnastics).

On the way to drop Kyla at gymnastics I told her that while she was there, Ruben and I would go along to the donor clinic. I explained to both children that you have to be over 16 and weigh more than 50kg to donate blood.

Kyla remarked that she would then make sure that she didn't weigh more than 50kg when she is older (she's 10 now) so that she doesn't have to donate. I explained that it isn't a compulsory thing to give blood and that people choose to do so.

Then, it being in my nature, I gave her something to think about.

Her mom was in a bad car accident may years ago. It resulted in a hospital stay and extensive back surgery. I don't know whether she received a transfusion but considering the seriousness of the accident, it may have been likely. I explained to her that her mom may have received blood and that if it were not for the people who voluntarily donate blood, that her mom may not have survived. Blood cannot be manufactured (yet) and so the only way to have blood available is for people to donate it.

The same holds true for the many people who receive blood following bad car accidents every day. It can take 40 to 60 units to save the life of a trauma patient. For perspective, that's more than I've donated since I was 16 (I'm on #41 now).

When we went to fetch Kyla after gymnastics, Ruben told her all about seeing the blood in bags, the shaking machine, how they put the needle in and then took it out and the people we saw. It's a friendly, non-intimidating environment and he enjoyed the experience of being there. Kyla wants to come along next time. I hope that by the time she's 16, she'll have a different perspective on blood donations.

Of course, donating blood is not for everyone.

Many people are excluded because of their medical conditions - low blood pressure, low iron, diabetes, previous hepatitis illnesses, certain medications, heart conditions... This is for the donor's own health; not that SANBS doesn't need their blood.

And then some people just can't do it. There are many who faint at the sight of a needle or blood. And that's ok too. It just is.

All those people in good health, with no illnesses, conditions nor phobias... We need you. We need your blood. And not once-off on Mandela Day... Regularly. That's three (minimum) to six (maximum) times a year. This gives you a 'regular blood donor' status.

REMEMBER: SANBS only uses blood from regular donors. If you just donate once a year as a well-intentioned, feel-good activity, you blood will sit on ice for up to a year, waiting for you to donate again so that they can test it and confirm that your blood is safe to donate. If you don't come back, they throw it away because you have no safe track record. What a waste of their resources and your blood!

If you were on the receiving end, you'd expect to receive safe blood; and that's why they have these stringent criteria.

If you're in good health and are prepared to commit to donating at least three times a year (that's only every four months), then pop along to a SANBS fixed clinic or a mobile clinic (find them on the website).

You're needed.

No comments: