Yesterday I went to a blood donation session at a local church. After my experience I feel the need to talk about this particular topic because blood donation is so important and not enough people participate.
A nurse I spoke to claimed that only 3% of the population donate blood, which means that blood is constantly in high demand because of how few people participate in this vital process. Wales needs over 450 donations every day whereas England needs closer to 6,000. On top of this, blood services in England need roughly 200,000 new donors every year, as some donors are no longer able to give blood.
The process of giving blood is generally quite fast, taking around 45 minutes to complete the whole process. They started by asking me to fill in a questionnaire to ensure that I’m suitable for donating blood, and then a nurse took a drop of blood from my index finger to test for suitable iron levels. I was given a glass of water to drink before donating and then a nurse measured my blood pressure. Once all this was done the nurse was ready to take my blood. Most people are afraid of needles, or at least nervous when having any procedure involving needles, however I would like to stress that giving blood is nowhere near as painful as having an injection and the side effects are mild if they occur at all (which is rare). Putting the needle in my arm was almost painless, and I relaxed knowing the worst bit was over. 6 minutes and 475mls (just under a pint) of blood later I was done, and the nurse removed the needle from my arm (which is even less painful than the insertion). I was given a few minutes to lie still and then I was allowed to go and have a free cup of tea and a biscuit. The entire process is easy, involves very little pain (just the prick of the index finger and the needle being inserted, both of which are barely a pinch) and could potentially save three lives depending on what they do with the blood.
I heard the nurse talking to the man in the bed next to me, the plan with his blood was to split it up into red blood cells, plasma and platelets and send the platelets to a nearby cancer ward. I then asked her about my blood type, and she told me that my blood was going to be kept whole (rather than split into the three components) and sent to a neo-natal ward. I’m O-, which is nicknamed as the “universal” blood type because anyone can receive it, so it is often used in emergency situations when a patient’s blood is unknown or their blood type is unavailable. I’m also CMV negative which is fairly unusual (50-80% of the population are CMV positive), making my blood ideal for babies and other patients with poor immune systems. CMV is basically a virus that causes a flu-like illness, but the virus can remain in the body even after the illness is past (like chicken pox). CMV positive blood is therefore very risky for low immunity patients, and babies especially, because their immune systems are not fully developed. The fact that I am both these things in combination means that the nurses call me (and others like me) a “baby donor”, simply because it is the best kind of blood to give to babies.
The Welsh Blood Service website has page that states how many days stock of each blood type they have: https://www.welsh-blood.org.uk/about-blood/blood-stock-levels/ Looking at the levels, it is obvious how desperate the NHS is for more blood.
To anyone reading this, please look at the Welsh Blood Service website (or other relevant websites) to find out more. It’s very interesting to read about blood donation but it’s also vital that more people get involved.