Monday 22 April 2013

Once-off blood donations are a waste of resources, blood and good intentions

I stopped in at my local blood donor clinic this afternoon. With the Namib Desert Challenge in late March I've been a bit off my regular donation schedule as I like to go during the big holidays (Easter and Xmas) when the number of car accidents goes ballistic.

As an O negative blood type (Universal donor), I'm much in demand. The blood service (my lady there is Lynette) phones me the day before I'm due to donate to remind me to come in! And if I don't come in I can be sure to expect a few more phone calls from her.

I was in the area today so I thought I'd drop in. I've got time for another few this year - I'll aim for August, maybe October and then definitely xmas time.

A chap I haven't met before assisted me today and I was chatting to him about once-off donations. I'd always thought that they were a complete waste of time as blood components are only used once the donor has been in another two times within a 12-month period and that all three samples were clear.

Know what?

I am right.

Once-off donations are a complete waste of time.

The only component that can keep is plasma; kept frozen it is good for a year. The donated sample is separated into three components (red cells, platelets and plasma). Red cells and platelets are trashed. The plasma is frozen and kept on the shelf until the next two donations come in. If these are clear and safe, the frozen plasma can be used and thereafter all three components will be used. If more donations do not come in, the bag of frozen plasma is trashed.

While you think you're doing a good thing getting all excited about 'making a difference' at blood donation drives, you're not - unless you intend to keep donating at least three times a year.

Every donation requires equipment: gloves, needles, testing vials, blood bags with anticoagulants inside. And then the samples go off for testing for things like HIV and Hepatitis (B & C) and syphilis. The blood is separated and plasma is frozen and stored. All of this costs and even though your intentions are good, you're wasting time, money and resources.

I've written about blood donations many times on this blog. And every time I've stressed the importance of being a regular donor.

A few years ago a nurse at the clinic told me that 89% of donors start to donate only once they've been on the receiving end. Makes my blood boil.

So, if you have any inclination to donate blood, then only do so if you intend to donate three times a year and to keep doing so. Don't get caught up in the excitement of a blood drive at your office or a local mall - you're wasting resources - unless your intentions are really good and committed.

Blood donations only make a difference when they come in threes - like Goldilocks' bears, the little pigs, the blind mice, the Stooges, the wise men, the musketeers... got it?

[Find a donor clinic in your area -]


adventurelisa said...

One of my friends doesn't get past the questionaire at the donor clinic so he hasn't been allowed to donate. He lives in a malaria area. This was my reply to him:

"There are exclusions - in the questionaire - like "Have you been to a malaria area in the past three months?" - boom, that's you out of the equation constantly. That's the main reason why I stopped donating for a few years - I kept going to malaria areas! Also if you have an operation, dental procedure, take certain kinds of medication, infection or even if you have flu you can't donate. There's usually a period of a few weeks or a few months (depending) and then you're good to go again."

They also ask questions about your recent sexual history like whether you have a new partner, whether you've had unprotected sex with a new partner etc. They're trying to rule out risky behaviour that could make your blood unsafe.

General rule is that you should be over 16, weigh more than 50kg, be in good health and lead a sexually safe lifestyle.

The SANBS has a good FAQ section on their website.

Staci said...

Thanks for this info. I am unable to donate because of low blood pressure. My daughter donates hru the school drives that happen four times a year.

adventurelisa said...

Hiya Staci,

School drives is how I got into donating blood. They would come to our school a few times a year. I continued through university but it was only with adventure racing that I had to stop as I was so often in malaria areas.

School drives are awesome and I'm sure that they contribute greatly to the stocks available.