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Did you know you can save three lives just by sitting down?
June is Blood Donor Month, and on Thursday, 14 June 2018 marks the date of the annual World Blood Donor Day. Recognised by countries all over the world, this occasion both advocates the huge importance of giving blood often and voluntarily, without payment, and celebrates those who sit down and donate on the regular; the help they provide is literally life-saving. Regular blood donors are a dependable source of this vital fluid, which is desperately needed by organisations such as the Western Province (WP) Blood Transfusion Service and the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), both of whom collect and provide safe blood and its products within various areas in the country.
The SANBS is rated among the best organisations internationally at providing this life-giving substance and our country is one of 62 in the world that succeed at meeting their blood needs every year - which are gained entirely from free and voluntary donations. South Africa deserves to be proud that it is so developed in this sense, and is lucky to have so many willing and committed blood donors whose help does a lot to keep others alive.
The SANBS does not operate in the Western Cape - however, we have obtained information about all that is blood donation from them because of their authority on this area. The WP Blood Transfusion service is, however, equally excellent in its standards of blood collection and has blood donation clinics within the Western Province region.
The City of Cape town asks that all who meet the criteria for blood donors sign up with the WP Blood Transfusion Sevice as regular donors.
Where can I donate in Cape Town or where can I donate blood in the Western Cape?
It's more than worth it - just one donation from you is enough to save up to three peoples' lives! And all you have to do to give this precious gift is to sit down.
The Western Province Blood Transfusion Service has a small handful of permanent donation clinics in Cape Town. However, if their fixed clinics are nowhere near you, don’t worry: they also have mobile clinics that it hosts in various areas in Cape Town's surrounds and all around the peninsula - look out for these in your area, in the form of a caravan or their ‘Blood Bus’! You can find out where these are and which are nearest to you on WP Blood's brilliantly clear website, wpblood.org.za. Its 'Where Can I Donate' webpage even has information on what clinics are open on different dates on its calendar.
Locations of permanent blood donation centres in Cape Town:
Who can donate blood?
Many may wonder how South Africa can safely perform this feat whilst collecting blood that is 100% safe, when it is known for its HIV/AIDS epidemic. In fact, perhaps because of this, the country has developed an extremely effective and sensitive blood-screening procedure that picks up even the smallest signs of transmittable infections. If an infection is detected in someone’s blood they are not able to donate blood.
The procedures for selecting donors are extraordinarily rigid and blood will only ever be taken from low-risk individuals. You will undergo a ‘mini-medical’ when you come to present yourself as a donor before you can give any blood.
There is also something of a misconception that not many people may be able to donate due to HIV/AIDS, when in fact there are loads of eligible donors in the country. Having HIV/AIDS is not the only thing that disallows someone from being a blood donor. If you are wanting to donate, know that a person is automatically disqualified from being able to give blood when they:
Currently have or have ever had leukaemia or lymphoma, or any other cancers of the blood
Have had another type of cancer less than five years after their last treatment
Are positive for hepatitis viruses
Are positive for the AIDS virus
Have had a body piercing anywhere with a needle which was not sterile or if it was uncertain whether it was sterile
Weigh less than 50kg, meaning losing a unit of blood (480ml)
Are under the age of 16 and above the age of 65
Have travelled to malarial areas recently (usually)
Have the flu
Have recently had a child or are pregnant
Are on antibiotics
Generally engage in risky sexual behaviour (i.e. casual sex)
Diabetes does not exclude you from being a blood donor, and nor does high or low cholesterol. However, if you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, you can donate as long as your insulin syringe has only ever been used by you.
If you’re ready to donate, it is best to do it as soon as possible rather than waiting until there is a crisis. The SANBS emphasises on how important it is to give blood when it is not immediately needed. What you donate will be invaluable when an emergency does arise and somebody needs a transfusion there and then. The SANBS may receive a lot of blood, but stocks can run low fast.
In fact, on Wednesday, 7 June 2017 the SANBS published an urgent plea for blood donors, as they are running out of blood platelet stocks. If you have a look on their website,sanbs.org.za, you can see the measure of how many days’ worth of blood stocks are left. At the time of writing this, there are enough blood stocks for three days now. If this says anything, it’s that there is always a need for this essential life source, particularly as the population continues to get bigger.
There is another misunderstanding about blood donation, and that is that it is a way to get a free HIV test. This is not what coming to donate blood is about, so organisations ask that people please do not treat it as such.
Who needs blood transfusions?
Patients with blood cancers such as lymphoma, leukaemia and bone or bone marrow cancer
Women who haemorrhage during or after childbirth
Patients undergoing surgical operations, such as heart surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, and hip or knee replacements - these are made possible with donated blood
People with diseases that cause severe anaemia
Individuals with a bleeding disorder
Anyone with an infection or disease that hinder their body from properly producing blood
Victims of accidents who have been injured
Finally, a small percentage of donated blood is used in research.
All blood donors…
Can expect to donate one unit of whole blood every time they donate - that’s 450ml.
Will save the lives of up to three people by giving a single unit of blood
If healthy and eligible, can donate a unit about every three months
Should eat a nutritious diet, with iron- and Vitamin C-rich foods included
Whether you decide to go ahead and donate for the first time, or are a regular donor, give yourself a pat on the back! You are doing a huge service to others which is indispensable. You and our country’s blood collecting organisations deserve to be celebrated.
SANBS made this great video as part of their campaign to show everyone just how simple it is to donate.
Don't confine giving blood to one month - blood is always needed so please give often when and if you are able. Sig up with WP Blood and become a regular donor. Donating blood is also a great way to spend part of your 67 minutes of giving back on Mandela Day (on 18 July).
If you would love to do more positive things for your community, there is a huge choice of other ways to give back in Cape Town (so if you can't give blood, never fear!). Why not use donating clothes to charity or helping to take care of our city by recycling as a starting point?
By Emily Moir
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