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The human brain has left no stone unturned to unravel mysteries of medical science and find cure to even the knottiest diseases. However, there is one thing yet to be conquered: To generate blood – A wonder drug that cannot be manufactured by even the best of pharma companies. This medicine can only be transferred from the abundant to the needy. A statistical survey done in 2000 has revealed that around 11 million blood donations are collected in India every year against the required 13.5 million leaving a gap of nearly 2 million. With the pandemic having set in, the demand supply gap has been increasing more than ever which needs to be bridged. One way to achieve the same is to motivate and create awareness among eligible young donors which is the intent of this write up. There is a one liner well heard of ‘A pint of blood can save three lives’. Ever wondered how? Time to unfurl the answer..

Blood collected is actually ‘whole blood’. The wholesome blood includes white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, coagulation factors and liquid part (plasma) combined altogether. This is stored by adding special preservatives in blood banks to extend its shelf life and is delivered to patients as and when needed.

What and how much are you actually donating when giving blood?

A healthy donor has around 5 to 6 liters of blood in his/ her body. A single episode of blood donation simply means taking out 300 to 350 ml, which gets replenished within the next three months. In other words, if our body has 10 pints a single episode of blood donation is just giving 1 pint. Blood collected is actually ‘whole blood’. The wholesome blood includes white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, coagulation factors and liquid part (plasma) combined altogether. This is stored by adding special preservatives in blood banks to extend its shelf life and is delivered to patients as and when needed. Shelf life of blood components varies depending on the type: five days for platelets, thirty-five to forty days for the red cells and up to one year for plasma.

How does a single unit of blood save multiple lives?

Unlike decades ago, the advent of automation and technology has now made it possible to separate whole blood into components and preserve each one separately. Post donation, within a maximum span of six hours the whole blood is centrifuged in a special equipment at blood banks under temperature controlled sterile settings and separated into plasma, platelets, and packed red blood cells.  When needed White blood cells and cryoprecipitate can also be selectively extracted as per patients demands. Each component is stored in separate bags under optimal conditions. Packed red blood cells are high in oxygen content and are used to increase hemoglobin levels and in cases of hemorrhage to make up for blood loss. 

The plasma replenishes the fluids lost in cases like burns and is also a source of coagulation factors which help in the normal clotting process. Platelets are particles which play an important role in hemostasis, prevent bleeding from vessels and are used in thrombocytopenic patients like those with viral illness like dengue. The white blood cells are extracted when specifically asked for by a process called apheresis. Heart & brain surgeries, bone marrow and organ transplants, burn victims, patients undergoing other major surgeries, women facing unexpected complications during delivery, inherited blood disorder for patients with sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia patients are the most in need of blood transfusion.

As per WHO 38% of reported voluntary blood donors are under the age of 35, hence insists countries focus on creating awareness to donate among this age group. Knowledge plays a key role in blood donation as half knowledge or misconceptions can defer one from donating blood and also spread wrong information among peers.

Facts, Inhibition and Attitude towards blood donation

As per WHO 38% of reported voluntary blood donors are under the age of 35, hence insists countries focus on creating awareness to donate among this age group. Knowledge plays a key role in blood donation as half knowledge or misconceptions can defer one from donating blood and also spread wrong information among peers. A study by Bharadwaj and group (2019)  has shown that there is a positive attitude towards the voluntary blood donation among youths in our country from both medical and non-medical educational backgrounds. In spite of having an optimistic attitude only a few donate due to lack of knowledge and awareness about the modes to donate blood.

How much time will it take to donate blood?

A common misconception is regarding the duration taken for one to donate blood. An entire episode of blood donation is over within an hour! Many blood banks across the country have slots and timings that help reduce waiting time by booking an appointment. A few centers collect blood by direct walk in. Below is a quick overview of a blood donation process.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

The blood banks first provide a questionnaire for the donor to be filled regarding his or her basic personal details and medical history. A brief overview and pre-transfusion counselling is given to the donor by the staff. After basic tests like checking hemoglobin, blood pressure and temperature screening, if the donor is fit to donate it just takes 10 to 15 minutes to collect the blood. Post-donation the donor is asked to rest for ten minutes, during which some light refreshment or fresh fruit is given to replenish the energy. A certificate is given as a token of appreciation and for documentation purposes to the donors. The donor is advised to keep the bandage on the arm for six hours, drink plenty of fluids, defer from lifting heavy weights, smoking and alcohol intake for the next 24 hours. A gap of three months for males and four months for females is ideal between blood donations.

Where do I find an opportunity to donate blood?

Many studies have shown that the youth of our country, though willing, are unbriefed about the means to donate the blood. Given below are a few simple opportunity that motivate the donors.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

Quick Facts And Clarifications

So now that we get to know the modes to donate, let us get our facts right about blood donation..

MYTHS

FACTS

I’m a vegetarian. I don’t have enough blood to donate.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

Can donate. A balanced diet is all it takes to restore the volume donated.

Donating blood is a time-consuming task.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

On an average the entire process lasts for not more than an hour!

Too much blood is taken from my body.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

Only an average of  350 ml  is drawn compared to the 5 – 6 liters of blood in your body!

Donating blood weakens my immunity.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

The immune system in no way is affected by this.

I am on medications, cannot donate blood.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

Not all medications are contraindicated for donation. You can still donate after clarification.

I’m a female : cannot donate blood.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

All females fulfilling basic donor eligibility  can donate (other than durations of breastfeeding, pregnancy, periods and abortions).

HIV and other infections can be contracted from donation.

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

Sterility is maintained at all steps, with a new sterile needle being used for every donor.

No one has asked me to donate!

It Just Takes Fifteen Minutes

The need for donated blood is always there. Read below to see how you can make a change!

So, the next time you donate remember that you have saved three lives because……

From your one donated blood unit you would have literally provided a bag of red blood cells for an anaemic lady or a trauma patient with massive bleeding who is being operated in your vicinity, one unit of platelet for a patient having dengue and a unit of fresh plasma for a farmer who has had a snake bite wound and has landed in casualty. 

Let us work together for a better world, let us not only be aware but also spread the awareness among our near and dear ones about the need of coming forward and finding opportunities for donating blood. As another calendar year 2022 makes its beginning, incorporate this one also in your ‘TO DO’ list of resolutions for the new year.  To donate blood and save a life. ‘ LET BLOOD WAIT FOR THE PATIENT AND NOT PATIENT FOR BLOOD’

Composed by: “Dr.Archana Shetty, is currently working as a Blood Transfusion Officer and Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at CDSIMER under the aegis of Dayananda Sagar University. With a teaching and diagnostic experience of over 12 years she is actively involved in blood transfusion services at the hospital.”

Photo from Unsplash

InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

Author InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

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