A pint of blood can be the difference between life and death. Myths and misconceptions often emerge as a deterrent among cross-sections of society vis a vis the concept of blood donation. On the occasion of Blood Donor month, NT BUZZ underlines the importance of this noble deed and tries to shed false taboos surrounding blood donation
Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ
Whenever you line up at a blood donation camp or a hospital to donate blood, there is a tendency to wonder, how much blood drawn from your body would end up in the plastic sachet, placed by your side in the company of other donors and technicians.
Only 470 millilitres of blood is drawn from the body at the time of donation, which is about 1/8th of the total volume of blood in humans. That’s just 30 millilitres short of a half-litre bottle of Coca Cola!
And according to consultant pathologist, Healthway Hospitals, Supriya Joshi, it takes the human body just around 24 to 48 hours to replenish the lost fluid.
“One can donate blood every three months. The process to regenerate the cells takes about 56 days. Rejuvenated cells improve the immune system of an individual,” she says.
While the donated blood may well help save a life, regular donation of blood is pretty beneficial for donors’ health too. “On an individual level, it replenishes the blood and has many other advantages such as improving cardiovascular health, it is good for the liver, pancreas and also reduces obesity. Many patients can need blood anytime due to various medical circumstances and donated blood can come to the aid of the patient when required and save a life,” Joshi says.
Once donated, the shelf life of blood is around 42 days, but due to modern and technological advances, components of blood like red blood cells, platelets and plasma can be separated and used individually for treatment. Some of these components can be stored for even a year, she says.
Despite, years of awareness campaigns by the government and private agencies about the importance of blood donation, in Goa, hospitals sometimes fall short of blood supply for specific blood groups every now and then.
“With the huge amount of surgeries being conducted in Goa, the hospitals are always in need of blood. It is highly unpredictable which blood group would fall short though. Any and all major surgeries could require blood. Apart from this, quite a number of non-surgical cases may also require whole blood or any of its components,” Joshi explains.
In many ways, evolved medical protocol like maintenance of donor registries and the social media phenomenon, through blood donor groups, have helped fulfil the demand for blood, but there are several misconceptions that continue to come in the way of this noble deed.
“Common myths surrounding blood donation are that it can be painful, which is incorrect. It hurts just as much as it would hurt if you had to extract blood for a test. Other misconceptions are that smokers and individuals with diabetes cannot donate blood which is also false; diabetics with well controlled sugars can and do donate blood. There is also a belief that donors are prone to infection, which is also incorrect as all necessary aseptic measures are taken while drawing blood,” says Joshi.
In fact, everyone in the age group of 18 to 65 with a weight above 45 kgs can donate blood; the exceptions being a person who has had recent surgery or if the potential donor suffers from anaemia, communicable diseases or has recently had a cold or flu.
And there are unsung heroes like Panaji-based photo-journalist Sagun Gawde, who donates blood every year on his birthday. It is his effort towards ensuring that no one should suffer for want of blood.
“Every year on my birthday I donate blood. I never want anyone to suffer due to shortage of blood. If I can do something for a good cause, why not do it on my birthday? I make it a point to donate blood four times a year and have been doing it regularly for the past few years,” says Gawde.
DJ and event manager from Merces, Mackenzie Pereira belongs to the crucial group of people who have type ‘O’ blood group, who are known as universal donors.
“I like to do my bit and help out. Being from ‘O’ blood group, which can be transfused to patients of all blood types, it can be helpful to someone in need and can save a life,” Pereira says adding that he donates blood once every four months,” Pereira says.
Others like David D’Souza from Nerul believe in donating blood only when necessary. He was a regular donor once, but when he heard that blood, due to short shelf life, is sometimes destroyed, he stopped the practice of donating blood regularly. But being a founder of Social Economical Environmental Developing Foundation and a tech-lover, he also stepped up and developed an app which facilitates willing donors to donate blood when required.
“Some time ago I launched an app called the ‘Panic Button’, where we register people who are willing to donate blood as and when required. I’m not in favour of wastage of any kind. Hence, I am of the opinion that with better coordination between healthcare providers and willing blood donors we can ensure that people who need blood of a particular group can receive it without wastage of any kind,” says D’Souza.
Common myths aBOUT blood donation
If you have a tattoo you cannot be a blood donor: Incorrect. One can donate blood provided tattooing is done from an authorised centre and is beyond the window period of 12 weeks.
Donating blood makes the immune system weak: Incorrect. On the contrary it helps rejuvenate new cells thereby improving the immune system.
If you’re diabetic, blood donation isn’t for you: Incorrect. Diabetics on oral medication or insulin with controlled sugar levels can donate blood.
A blood donor is prone to infections: Incorrect. A donor has no risk of infection as all aseptic measures are taken while drawing blood.