Let’s talk about blood. It runs through everyone’s veins and it can make a pretty big difference in someone’s life. Currently, only 1 in 30 Australians give blood, which doesn’t sound too bad. Until you know that 1 in 3 Australians will need blood in their lifetime. Now, I’m not the greatest at maths but that statistic doesn’t sound too great if either you or a loved one will need blood *knocks on wood*. If you are curious about the process of giving blood, how you can help, or if you are considering donating, then you have come to the right place. Here is a quick rundown on what you can actually donate, the lives you can help improve, as well as an outline of the requirements of your eligibility to donate.
Different Types of Blood Donation
Believe it or not, there are actually three different types of blood donations. The most common one is whole blood. Whole blood is collected straight from the donor without having any adjustments made. After collection, it is usually separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets at a laboratory. This type of donation takes the least amount of time which is 15 minutes, in addition to the interview process so in total the appointment shouldn’t last more than an hour. The whole blood donation can be used for cancer, blood diseases, anaemia, heart disease, stomach disease, kidney disease, childbirth, operations, blood loss, trauma and burns.
The second form of donation is plasma. Plasma accounts for 55% of the blood inside a healthy human body, and its role is to carry the red and white blood cells as well as platelets throughout the body. A plasma donation is the most versatile, and can be used 18 different life-giving ways. This can include but is certainly not limited to; treating serious burns and cancer and also protecting people with brain and nerve diseases. The current demand for plasma in Australia currently outweighs the supply, which makes it the most sought after form of donation. However, a donor can donate plasma once every fortnight. The Australian Red Cross has funded research which came to the conclusion that plasma donors are now receiving an infusion of saline part way through the donation process, as research has shown that it improves the overall experience and health of the donor after the donation process.
The final type of blood donation is platelets. The “plates” within your blood serve the function of clumping together to assist in the clotting process and to reduce bleeding. This form of donation is primarily used in cancer patients in addition to surgery, trauma and liver disease. The donation of platelets is restricted to registered male plasma donors, and no it’s not a sexist conspiracy it is all down to science. Male donors are sought after as a risk reduction strategy for the fatal transfusion complication called Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI). This complication can cause breathing difficulties and low blood oxygen levels in patients after they donate. But how does this relate to women? It is believed that TRALI is caused by the antibodies in women who have been pregnant, and the Australian Red Cross has decided to limit this risk by only accepting male platelet donors. Due to this risk assessment, this cuts the viable donors for platelets in half, and therefore increases the need for donors of platelets.
Eligibility to donate
Before anyone can donate, they must meet certain criteria. There are strict requirements which blood donors must align with, as these requirements are put into place to protect the integrity of the sample. The basic criteria for a blood donor is that they are;
- 18-70 years old
- weigh more than 50kg
- currently healthy and not suffering from any cold or flu-like symptoms
- Drink plenty of water prior to donation
- Eat something within the 3 hours before donating
- Brought photo ID to the interview
Here is a link to the online test to see if you are eligible to donate.
Even after a donor has answered these questions and is eligible to donate, the blood sample which is taken is tested for blood type, and is screened using seven different tests. These tests are used to detect five different infectious diseases which can be passed on to patients through blood donation. These diseases are:
- HIV (AIDS virus)
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
Once you have completed the test and have been declared eligible, then you will be able to donate. Australia currently only accepts voluntary blood donations, and donors are not paid for the sample they provide. This means that it is up to Australians to put their best foot forward and donate. So please, if you meet all the criteria then set up an appointment today. Wouldn’t you want someone to step up when you really need it? Plus, you get a free cookie afterwards so why not give it a go!