When I was a little girl, I always went with my Mum to watch her donate blood. Before the health and safety regulations I even used to carry the bags of blood from one table to another. I also remember the kind lady who served me and Mum with Club biscuits and a drink of squash after. So when I turned 17, it was a no-brainer that I would enrol to be a blood donor and register as an organ donor.
Tomorrow I will be making my 9th donation, which doesn’t seem a big number since I have been donating for four years, but there was a period of over 18 months when I wasn’t able to donate due to living in South America. Also, regulations only allows females to make donations once every 16 weeks in the UK (for males it is a 12 week interval), providing you are healthy and haven’t had vaccinations within the past 8 weeks.
This week is National Blood Week, the campaign for this year is called “Know Blood Give Blood”. National campaigns are crucial to finding more donors and encouraging those who have donated before to return (as only 12% of those who have given blood have donated within the past six months). Celebrities back these campaigns by appearing on TV and radio adverts, especially appealing to people with rare blood types to come forward and help. I am sure you recognise the music that is at the top of this page.
To help you Know Blood (and subsequently Give Blood) here are some facts about blood donation*:
- Each unit of blood donated is split into its constituent parts, and can save up to three lives
- The number of regular blood donors has fallen by 23% over the past decade
- The minimum age for blood donation is 17 years (650,000 people will turn 17 in the next 12 months!).
It also should be noted that each donation altogether takes an hour at most if you have an appointment. The first part includes drinking water, filling out health forms, a prick test on your finger for iron levels and waiting for an empty bed. The actual donation part takes less than 15 minutes depending on if you’re a fast or slow bleeder – I am the latter and have to play with a stressball during my donation to keep my blood running. Then there are complimentary drinks, biscuits and stickers after your donation.
For me, giving blood along with being a registered organ donor are small steps that I have taken, which combined with the collaboration of others – other donors, medical staff, campaigners, volunteers – makes a big difference in the lives of others.
It’s hard to persuade people to give blood, it’s very different to asking somebody to donate money to a cause, as it is asking somebody to spend some time with a needle in their arm. But honestly, it is not scary, painful or as horrible as you imagine it might be.
Everyday we hear stories in the news of road accidents, tragedies and illnesses that have befallen ordinary people like you and I. Do something amazing for these people while you can and are in a position to do so. Nobody knows if/when they (or a loved one) will become a victim to a medical condition or an accident that requires blood in their recuperation. So I urge you (students!!) to donate now, while you are young and healthy. You can then continue donating, as I do, and encourage others to do the same. It really will make a difference somehow, and the biscuits at the end are never a let down.
For more information please visit http://www.blood.co.uk which is also where you can go to register as a blood donor.
* These facts have been taken from an NHS Blood and Transplant Service email I received, encouraging me to share these facts with others.