This week Sunday 14th June sees the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual “World Blood Donor Day.” This event was established in 2004, and is designed to raise awareness of the importance of donating blood to ensure quality, safety and availability of blood and blood products for patients in need. It also serves as a thank you to those who have donated and continue to donate blood. Blood donations quite literally save lives, and one pint of your blood could save up to 3 adults or children.
Each year WHO have a different focus to their campaign. For 2015, the theme is “Thank you for saving my life” encouraging people to continue or start to donate blood by highlighting stories of people whose lives have been saved by blood donations. Our own Isabel Maude, who was misdiagnosed at 3 when suffering necrotising fasciitis, received crucial blood transfusions in the Children’s Intensive Care Unit of St Mary’s Hospital, London, so we understand the need to thank and to encourage voluntary blood donors. The objective for this year’s World Blood Donor Day is also to place more attention on the health and care of the donors themselves, to ensure the donors are recognised and the quality of the blood being donated is the best it can be.
There is no substitution for human blood
Voluntary, unpaid donors are the only way to ensure enough reliable blood supplies, as they have the lowest rate of bloodborne infections.
108 million blood donations are made every year
Around half of blood donations are from low and middle-income countries, but these countries account for 80% of the demand for blood
The order and exact process will vary slightly from country to country or even state to state, but it’s always quite similar.
You will be checked for your iron and sugar levels, to ensure they aren’t too low for you to give blood. If too low, your own health during the donation is at risk, so this is for your own wellbeing. This process involves a finger-prick to get a drop of blood
There are forms to fill in, with simple yes no answers. These confirm eligibility, asking things like whether you have been ill in the last few weeks, or if you’ve ever had a blood transfusion.
There will be a more private consultation with a nurse or donor carer, where more questions will be asked, and your identity confirmed.
Sometimes a blood sample is taken, to make absolutely sure that the blood being taken is suitable to be used on patients, and also that you are safe to donate the blood
Once the screenings have all been done and you have the go-ahead, the nurse or carer will locate a suitable vein and insert a needle to begin the donation
Donors are encouraged to squeeze their hand, or a stress ball, to tense and relax the muscles in their arm. This increases blood pressure slightly, so the blood donation is smoother and quicker, and you remain well throughout and after the donation
After the donation, there is usually an area with cookies and juices, and you are encouraged to eat and drink in order to regain the correct blood sugar levels. Spending around 15-20 minutes in this area after your donation is very important as it ensures your body has recovered in a safe environment.
In the UK, you can donate blood through the NHS at centres across the country, all throughout the year. Find out what centre is near you, check that you’re eligible, and book an appointment to donate blood here.
In the US, the American Red Cross organise regular blood drives and opportunities to donate blood, and you can check eligibility, sign up and book an appointment here.
Jason is the CEO and Co-founder of Isabel. Prior to co-founding Isabel, Jason spent 12 years working in finance and investment banking across Europe. His daughter, Isabel, fell seriously ill following a misdiagnosis in 1999 and this experience inspired Jason to abandon his city career and create Isabel Healthcare Ltd.