Every pint counts
by Mary Francis
ALMOST everyday, the state Blood Bank is appealing for donors to help top up fast depleting supply as demand for transfusions continues to rise.
There are four blood types – Groups A, B, O, AB. All are needed during emergencies. As a life-sustainer, blood is vitally important – every pint of it.
Blood transfusions are often required for trauma victims and patients – from accidents or burns to heart surgery, leukemia treatment, cancer, heart and liver diseases and hemophilia.
As most medical treatments and procedures require transfusions, the need for blood grows in tandem. Donation is voluntary and the blood procured for transfusion must be safe and of quality.
In 1997, the World Health Organisation (WHO) set a goal for all blood donations to come from unpaid volunteer donors. This way, it’s easier to verify the donors’ state of health since volunteer donors are less likely to conceal illnesses.
Blood donation is not donating blood as and when one feels like donating. There are times one is not qualified to donate. A donor’s health and safety is paramount.
There are rules and regulations to adhere to. This is where the Blood Bank comes in – to do a blood test on the donor for eligibility.
According to Miri Hospital Blood Bank assistant information chief, Lily Sinta, all potential donors are required to complete a Blood Donor Enrolment form each time they intend to donate blood.
“The information provided will help determine if the blood is safe for use by another person. Also, the potential donor needs to give consent for blood samples to be taken to test for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and syphiliis,” she said, assuring that all results will be kept confidential.
For safe blood transfusion, a blood bank is required to comply with the guidelines and procedures set by the Health Ministry, including the donor’s management such as donation criteria, selection (medical history and health check) and pre-donation interview (questionnaire and consent).
Processes and uses
Lily told thesundaypost all the donated blood had to be tested for ABO Group (blood type) and Rh type (positive or negative).
“The blood type must be determined if the blood is to be used for transfusion.”
For this, the Blood Bank usually identifies whether the blood type is Group A, B, AB or O as well as the donor’s
Rh (D) type, followed by a screening for antibodies to lessen the common antigens. More testing, including cross-match, is done before the transfusion.
The screening is performed to also ascertain whether the donor is infected with diseases such as hepatitis B and C virues, human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV1 & HIV2) and syphilis.
After being verified as non-reactive to the above viruses, the blood can be used either as whole blood to help one patient or further processed and separated into components (red cells, platelets and plasma) to help several patients.
Lily said the whole blood is stored at a temperature between two and six degrees and the shelf life is 35 days. It is used for hemorrhagic cases, exceeding 50 per cent, and exchange transfusion.
Importance of blood
The whole blood can be processed to obtain packed cells, platelets concentration and fresh frozen plasma. The safety and efficacy of these products rely on the control of the source material at all stages, starting from the selection of blood donors to the manufacturing processes, storage, transport and finally, issue of the product to the needy patient.
From the whole blood (which was donated), several blood components can be procured — packed red cells, red blood cells, platelets, fresh frozen plasma, cryoprecipitate and cryosupernatant.
While donated blood is free, there are some significant costs associated with collecting, testing, preparing components, labelling, storing, recruiting and educating the donors and quality assurance.
According to Lily, the costs are borne by taxpayers. Therefore, blood collection, including from group donations, organised by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other private or public institutions such as schools and institutes of higher learning, have to be planned well so that supply should be able to meet increasing demand.
The level of blood supply fluctuates throughout the year. During the holidays and festive seasons, and especially during the fasting month (Ramadan), the levels tend to fall due to declining donations but the demand also remains stable or even escalates.
“It’s our social obligations and responsibility to donate blood,” Lily said, adding that the amount to be donated is only 450ml — less than one pint (586ml). The body has six litres, hence the amount taken is minimal.
The donation procedure itself takes about seven-15 minutes whereas the donor has to be prepared to spend at least an hour at the donation centre.
Avoid heavy muscular or strenuous activities such lifting, pushing or picking up heavy objects five hours after giving blood. Drink plenty of water the next 24 hours.
It takes about 24 hours for the body to replace the blood volume or plasma, and about eight to 12 weeks to replace the red cells before one may donate again.
WHO recognises every June 14 to promote blood donation.
Lily appeals to the public to continue supporting the Blood Bank by donating blood to save lives.
Echoing Sir Winston Churchill’s popular quote, she said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
For further enquiries, call the Miri Hospital Blood Bank during office hours (085-416657).