Around the world, people of all ages and from all walks of life may, at one point in their lives, need a blood transfusion to survive. In the United States alone, it is estimated that approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets, and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily. 1 Unfortunately, the demand for blood often will far outweigh the actual supply. 2
The reasons for needing blood transfusion varies. Most of the demand comes from a loss of blood brought about by injuries and accidents, as well as complications of delivery and childbirth. Other patients would require transfusion because of anaemia secondary to chronic diseases, malnutrition, and even due to cancer and other blood disorders.
Receiving blood and its components are safe.
There are several kinds of blood units for transfusion, and the specific component is dependent upon each patient’s indication. The most common forms are whole and packed red blood cells (PRBCs), while other types include platelet concentrates, fresh frozen plasma (FFP), and cryoprecipitate.
Each of these units of life-saving blood undergoes several tests before transfusion to determine if it is satisfactory (with adequate cellular components) and safe (free from disease). The different haematological parameters are screened, as well as common infectious diseases like syphilis, hepatitis, and HIV or AIDS.
Once a physician determines that a transfusion is necessary, the physician fills up a request form detailing the component that is needed with the patient’s blood type, which is confirmed and double-checked. Afterwards, a test called cross-matching is performed to determine if the donated blood is compatible with that of the recipient. Once this is done, and no significant interactions are noted, a report is issued to signify that a final verification has been rendered and that transfusion may proceed.
Safety is always ensured for blood donors.
Before contributing blood, each individual must undergo a physical examination to determine the presence of any comorbidity or disease that may compromise their well-being during collection. They will also undergo an interview to uncover any history of prior illnesses that may be a cause for deferral of donation.
Each donor’s vital signs and physical findings are assessed to ensure that they are physically healthy and able to give a substantial volume of fluid. Additionally, their veins are checked to determine the capacity to provide adequate flow. While it is not necessary for them to undergo hours of fasting before the procedure, it is, however, advised to have light meals before blood collection.
There are only a few complications from donating blood. Perhaps one of the most dreaded is syncope or fainting, but this is prevented by allowing the donor to recline on a comfortable bed or armchair. Also, is the formation of a hematoma or bruise over the needle site, which is easily treated by the application of ice packs or a cold compress.
Who can donate?
Any healthy adult can donate blood. By healthy, this means that the individual must have normal blood pressure, normal body temperature, and the absence of any history of blood-borne, infectious, or malignant disease. There is no qualification for a standard body mass index (BMI), nor a height requirement, but an interested person must ideally weigh at least 50 kg. Each donor will also be asked a series of questions to determine any high-risk behaviours that might cause a deferral of donation. Not to worry, because these questions are standardized and kept strictly confidential.
Although particular lifestyle activities may be considered as characteristics of an undesirable donor, there are a few myths regarding these qualifications that need to be debunked.
First, the most common misconception is the belief that getting a tattoo automatically disqualifies one from donating blood. Be that as it may, this is false because persons with tattoos may be allowed to contribute after a certain period of time, depending on each area or state’s local regulations.
Another belief is that cigarette smokers and alcoholic beverage drinkers are not permitted to donate. This, however, is also false, but it is advised not to smoke or drink any alcoholic beverages for at least 24 hours before the planned donation. Again, the rules are different for each locality, so it is suggested to contact the local blood collecting units for further information.
Donate blood today!
As this article is being read right now, a patient is most likely in need of blood. It is a life-saving intervention that cannot be produced by artificial means. The only way for this treatment to become available to those who need it is for each and everyone to take that step forward and become heroes in their own right. All one needs is courage, determination, and a generous heart for every donor who is willing to give blood and give life.
1. American Red Cross. (2020). Blood needs and blood supply. Retrieved fromhttps://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/how-blood-donations-help/blood-needs-blood-supply.html
2. Burnouf T. Blood products: unmet needs for essential medicines. [, 2019]. Lancet Haematol. 2019; doi.org/10.1016/S2352-30269(19)30217-0.