It’s the perfect time to give blood

Now more than ever is a great time to roll up your sleeves and start giving blood. (Image Source: Chelsea Shepherd)

By Chelsea Shepherd | @Chelsea15183902

As Australian Red Cross Lifeblood centres remain open, it is vital that we make a difference and give blood, plasma and platelets.

Blood is surprisingly versatile. Your blood is 55 per cent plasma, and carries your red and white blood cells, as well as platelets. Donations can be made into 22 different medical treatments, ranging from cancer and kidney treatments, to helping pregnant women and roadside trauma patients.

The blood donation process is very simple.  

Blood is collected straight from a single vein. After the blood is collected, it is stored for the red blood cells, plasma and platelets to be separated in a lab. 

I have been donating blood since I was 16, and it is a truly great experience to give back and save lives.

I recently went to the Port Adelaide Lifeblood clinic and donated plasma for the first time. Plasma is often more in demand than blood as one donation of plasma can be utilised for several different treatments. 

Whether you’re donating blood, plasma or platelets, the process is similar, however, donating plasma or platelets takes approximately 45 minutes, while donating blood takes 15 minutes.  

On arrival, you must fill out an electronic questionnaire including information about any medications you take, previous travel, and whether you have had any recent tattoos or piercings, to ensure you’re eligible to donate.

Once that is done, you are encouraged to help yourself to the vast range of snack and beverage options that are provided by Lifeblood to boost energy levels before and after your donation.

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Snacks provided by Lifeblood. (Image source: Chelsea Shepherd)

A nurse then conducts an interview with you to confirm that you have answered the questionnaire correctly and to clear up any discrepancies with your eligibility.

Your blood pressure is then checked, and the nurse pricks your finger to check the levels of haemoglobin in your blood are suitable for the donation.

Then you are escorted into the donation room where nurses assign you to a comfortable chair with a drink and talk you through the donation process.

They give you ample time to make yourself comfortable before the needle is inserted and the blood starts being collected.

Although I have donated blood before, and I am familiar with the needle, the insertion and anticipation of pain is still daunting.

However, I can assure you that you will only feel a slight pinch as the needle goes in, and after that, there is no pain at all. 

When donating plasma and platelets, you are hooked up to a machine that takes the appropriate amount of blood from you, then, through a process called apheresis, separates the plasma and platelets from the blood and returns the blood back to you.

I strongly urge you not to look at the machine or the blood bag when you are donating blood, plasma, or platelets as it may make you feel queasy.

Once the needle is extracted, donators are encouraged once again to sit down and have a sweet drink or snack and wait 10 to 15 minutes to ensure they are not experiencing dizziness or fatigue.

Blood donations can be made every 12 weeks, plasma donations every two weeks, and platelet donations every two to four weeks.

There are five permanent donation centres in South Australia, along with six mobile blood donation vans that operate unique hours and have the capacity to travel around the state.

Lifeblood centres adhere to strict sanitation requirements such as single-use sterile equipment for each donation, wiping down surfaces and wearing gloves.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Lifeblood has changed their seating arrangements to ensure donors are kept 1.5 metres apart.

They have also implemented further and more frequent sanitisation of surfaces and are providing more hand sanitiser for donators

The Red Cross is currently preparing for the annual cold and flu season and fears the increased spread of coronavirus could put the nation’s blood supply under pressure should donors become unavailable.

Therefore, it is important to consider donating blood if you are fit, healthy and eligible.

It is a simple yet wonderful experience to donate blood, plasma or platelets, as well as a great way to give back to people who truly need it.

I urge you to please donate if you are able to, and encourage your friends and family to do so as well to save as many lives as possible.

For more information regarding donating blood,plasma or platelets, or to book an appointment, please visit the Australian Red Cross website.

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