Why You Should Donate Blood

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Blood transfusion is the most common tissue transplantation in the world because hospitals and clinics in every part of the world need blood on a daily basis as part of their management for different categories of patients.

The importance of blood to human survival can't be overemphasized because:

1. Blood is the only medium through which oxygen and nutrients can be distributed to every cell and tissue in the human body. It is also the only means through which waste products (carbon dioxide, toxic substances from the breakdown of drugs and other chemical compounds taken into the body) from cells and tissues can be effectively transported to the points (lungs, skin, kidneys) where they are removed from the body.

2. The white blood cell component of blood is what drives the body's immune system which protects the body against all sorts of infectious and other toxic agents that it comes in contact with every day.

3. The human blood also contains another cell type and carries many chemicals that work in a seamless manner to make sure you don't bleed so much whenever you sustain an injury. The black mesh-like material that covers any wound you sustain after some time is formed by this component of blood. Without it, people will bleed to death from any little wound they sustain.

4. The blood is the medium through which enzymes, hormones and every other life function chemical travel to different parts of the body to carry out their functions.

In fact, blood is the liquid life wire of every human being. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world fall into situations that significantly diminish their blood level to the point that only a blood donation can save their lives. Some of these situations include road traffic accidents, surgeries, sickle cell disease, bleeding disorders, bleeding in pregnancy and after childbirth, bleeding from unsafe abortion, severe anaemia in newborn babies due to different disease conditions, etc.

While some people who fall into any of these situations may have a family member they are compatible with and who are willing to donate blood for them, many other people in similar situations may not be that lucky in terms of having a supportive family; some come in as emergency cases that require immediate blood transfusion to save them.

Therefore, the best way to ensure this majority of not-so-lucky people who will need blood to survive these situations is voluntary blood donation. Hospitals, NGOs like the Red Cross and some social enterprises are always open for people who want to voluntarily donate blood. Rest assured that the procedure employed in taking your blood is safe.

How does the blood you donate make a difference? Once you have donated blood (1 pint):

1. The blood is packaged and sent to the hospital ward, theatre or emergency room to the person who urgently needs it.

2. The donated blood can be sent to the hospital's blood bank. Here, the blood can be stored in freezers at low temperatures for use whenever the need arises.

3. The donated blood can be separated into the various blood components such as red cell concentrate, platelet concentrate, fresh frozen plasma, clotting factors and so on. Each of these blood components can be given separately to different people based on the component of their blood that is inadequate. For instance, women who have certain types of miscarriages may only need clotting factors or fresh froze plasma because the problem is the loss of their clotting factors (responsible for controlling bleeding) which predisposes them to continuous bleeding. Also, people with certain types of anaemia may only need the red cell concentrate instead of whole blood.

Hence, when you donate just one pint of blood, you may be saving more than one life as that blood can be separated into its various components to save lives.

You can safely donate blood every 12 to 16 weeks, meaning you can make it a personal mission to donate 3 times every year.

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For more advice and help, feel free to consult a doctor.
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Published Wednesday, June 14th 2017

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