Blood Service urging new donors to step in as plasma demand rises

By GEENA HO

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service is calling for new donors with a reported all-time high in the demand for plasma worldwide.

Due to the versatility of the blood component, up to 18 different life-saving products can be made using it.

Plasma can be used to treat people with bleeding disorders, immune deficiencies, and even burns.

It can also be processed to protect people against diseases such as measles, rubella, and hepatitis A.

For the past 14 years, the Blood Service has supplied enough plasma to meet 100 per cent of domestic demand.

However, in 2015, only 57 per cent of this plasma came from Australian blood donors.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service Community Relations Officer, Jude Hyndman is urging new donors to come forward and donate, as there is immense pressure on current donors.

“We spend a lot of time trying to recruit new blood donors and we need to. One in three people will need blood or a blood product during their lifetime but there’s only one in 30 eligible donors in the country that actually donate,” Ms Hyndman said.

This rise in plasma demand follows a drop in demand of red blood cells, forcing the Blood Service to educate people about the importance of plasma donation as well as whole blood donation.

blood
Whole blood supply to demand from 2010–2016. Source: Australian Red Cross Blood Service 2016.

“You can actually donate plasma more often than whole blood. Plasma donations return your red blood cells to you so your iron is never compromised. So you can, in fact, donate plasma every two weeks if you have the time to do so,” Ms Hyndman said.

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Whole blood vs. plasma collections 2010–2016 and future forecast. Source: Australian Red Cross Blood Service 2016.

“Plasma donations can’t be done by all people who can do red blood donations. A plasma donation takes a little bit longer and you need slightly stronger veins, so not all people are eligible to do that.

“So the more new donors we get in, the more people we can test to see whether they’re eligible to become those crucial plasma donors.”

Although she is aware some people don’t donate because of religious reasons, health reasons, or their fear of needles, Ms Hyndman said the most common reason is simply because it has just never crossed their minds.

The establishment of Red25, a group-based life-saving social responsibility program that aims to bring in new donors, will hopefully stimulate better education within community groups.

Red25 Blood Drive volunteer, Wengpey Kh’ng, believes people generally do not donate because of a lack of knowledge.

Although she has thought about donating in the past, being Malaysian, Wengpey didn’t receive the proper education about donation until she moved to Australia.

“Before I first donated blood, I saw a promotion video and it said, ‘blood donation is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person—it is the gift of life’, so I thought it was really motivational and inspirational,” Wengpey said.

Both Ms Hyndman and Wengpey emphasise the importance of at least considering blood donation.

For plasma, Ms Hyndman said the Blood Service is in particular need of male plasma donors, as men tend to have the stronger veins required for plasma donations.

“It sometimes just doesn’t enter people’s minds to become blood donors and, for an hour of their time, four times a year, they can help save three lives, without ever having to put their hands in their pockets,” Ms Hyndman said.

 

Image Courtesy: Australian Red Cross Blood Service

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