Thursday, 1 October 2009

'O' so special!

This morning I stopped at my local blood donation clinic to do my thing. My last donation was in mid-June and after being overseas in August, I've been due for my next donation. SANBS has issued appeals on radio for donors to come through, as their stocks are very, very low.
South African National Blood Service (SANBS) is appealing to all regular blood donors, especially the group ‘O’ blood type to urgently come forward in their numbers to donate blood.
As an O Negative lass, my blood is in high demand.

So, why Group O in partiular? SANBS says,
1. Group O blood can usually be given to patients of other ABO blood groups
Regardless of their blood type, as the red cells in type O blood have neither antigen A nor antigen B. In medical emergencies, when urgent blood transfusions are required, there may be little time to determine a patient’s blood type.
Group O negative blood then comes to the rescue, as it can safely be transfused to patients of other blood groups.

2. Group O blood saves the lives of newborns
Babies born with blood disorders may also require immediate blood transfusions in order to save their lives. In some cases difficulties may occur in determining the blood groups of these infants. Group O blood is therefore important in supplying this ongoing need.

Babies also need "fresher" blood than other patients. While red blood cells stored for up to 42 days can be transfused to most adult patients. Only blood less than five days old may be used for transfusion to newborn infants, or in exceptional cases when babies require transfusions wile still in the womb (intra-uterine transfusion).

Why is Group O so special?
Patients in need of a blood transfusion as part of their medical treatment rely on blood donors of all blood groups to donate safe blood regularly. Therefore, your blood is vital to those in dire need of blood.

Group O blood is often in greater demand than other blood groups, which is why South African National Blood Service (SANBS) encourages Group O blood donors to donate regularly.
As I posted in May and June, I used to be a regular donor and then lapsed when I travelled frequently into malaria areas (this exclude you from donating). To be classified as a regular donor, with trusted blood, you have to donate three or more times a year. This is now my second and in mid-December I'll do my third.

It is VERY important to become a regular donor. Once-off donations cannot be used effectively. "The more regularly you donate, the better the chance of your donated unit getting used for all components," says a FAQ response on the SANBS website ( Regular donors are the safest donors because they understand the donation process and factors that exclude them from donating within defined window periods, like medication, risky sexual behaviour and illness.

SANBS explains that if you are donating blood for the first time, your red blood cells won’t get used. Your plasma gets quarantined until your next donation. If all tests come back negative after your second donation, the quarantined plasma from your first donation will be used. This also applies if you haven’t donated blood for a while. Once you have made three donations and your blood still tests negative for sexually transmissible diseases, all the components of your blood gets used. You have to donate blood regularly!

SANBS has superb permanent clinics scattered throughout South Africa; and they also hold mobile clinics at schools, offices and shopping malls. My clinic is in Bruma (JHB). The staff are friendly and the gifts are really cool - and useful. I got a first aid kit (some goodies in a zippered bag) this morning (see picture). I'm going to add some stuff to it and keep it in my car.

Whether you're Group O, A or B, pop along to your nearest clinic (see fixed and mobile clinic listings on SANBS website) during the next few days. They're even open late most evenings to accommodate after-work donors. The process takes 20-40 minutes (10-mins for forms, iron & BP testing and 6-15mins for donation and 5-mins to drink juice and eat cookies). And if you don't know your blood type, they'll let you know then and there. What fun! Take a photo on your phone and email it to me (reduce the size of it first, please).

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