Blood Bank: It's National Blood Donors Week. Photo: George Fetting
Two of the most important women in my life wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for blood transfusions.
My sister-in-law nearly died during childbirth and needed six bags of blood in surgery. She was in a coma for a week. But now she’s got two healthy boys and has found a love of surfing.
One of my best friends has an immune disorder and needs plasma transfusions every month to stay well. Six weeks ago she she gave birth to the cutest baby boy.
So when I give blood it’s for them. But I know it helps so many more. Instead of sending flowers I donate blood.
This week is National Blood Donor Week, and even if you don’t have a personal reason like me, here’s why it’s important to give a little of yourself to help others.
They say things come in threes, well here are some threes to paint a picture. One in three Australians will need blood or blood products in their lifetime. Only three per cent of the population gives blood each year. One blood donation can save three lives.
But here’s a figure much bigger than a three - Australia needs more than 27,000 donations every week.
According to the Australian Red Cross our blood is made up of several components and each one has a special function.
Red Blood Cells
They give blood its colour and account for up to 40 per cent of its volume.
The main function of these cells is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the trillions of cells in the body and remove waste products such as carbon dioxide.
Red cells can only be stored for 42 days.
Transfusions of red blood cells are used to treat people with severe anaemia; whose red blood cells do not function adequately; and who experience severe bleeding, such as accident victims and patients undergoing surgery.
It is the straw-coloured fluid in which the red cells, white cells and platelets are suspended. It contains nutrients and clotting factors which help to prevent or stop bleeding.
Plasma is stored frozen and has a shelf life of up to 12 months.
It is the most versatile component of blood as it can be processed into a variety of products and each product can be used to treat a number of potentially life-threatening conditions including burns, creating immunisations and helping haemophiliacs.
Platelets assist in the blood clotting process. They are literally tiny plates that wedge together covering tears in the blood vessels and preventing blood from leaking into surrounding tissue.
Platelets are stored at room temperature and have a shelf life of only five days.
Platelets are used primarily in the treatment of people with various cancers. Diseases such as leukaemia and medical treatments like chemotherapy can decrease a person’s platelet count. If the number of platelets becomes too low spontaneous bleeding can occur. Even a small amount of bleeding can be dangerous, particularly if it occurs in the brain.
You can find out if you’re eligible to donate here.
My brother and I decided to sign up to be blood donors four years ago simply because we saw the blood van parked by the beach. I’ve been donating every three months since. It’s just part of my routine now.
At the clinic I go to there’s a lovely Greek grandma who volunteers to make you a snack and a milkshake after you donate. She always looks at you with twinkly eyes and says ‘‘Thank you". If you’re lucky she also gives you a cuddle.
Does it hurt? Yep, I hate it. I hate needles. And the needle is so much thicker than a regular injection. It also has to stay in your arm for 12 minutes. Sometimes I tear up. Sometimes I bruise. But I lie there and I think about how much more it would hurt to not have those two friends in my life.