More than 50 years ago, on December 31, 1969, a proclamation was signed by the then President of the USA, designating January as National Blood Donor Month (NBDM). Someone needs blood every two seconds to address anything from surgeries and severe illnesses to cancer treatments and traumatic injuries, according to the American Red Cross.
Dial it forward to 2022, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, where blood donations are more necessary than ever. Haematological centres throughout the world are taking measures to ensure that donations continue in a safe manner for blood donors and recipients, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). “At the beginning of the pandemic, we were challenged by cancellations of blood drives due to the initial business, school and travel restrictions to flatten the infection curve. Although the cancellation of elective surgeries resulted in a decrease in some hospital inventory ordering patterns, the need for blood and platelets remained due to their therapeutic roles in trauma and cancer management.”
PAHO Director Carissa F Etienne said, “The safest blood comes through voluntary unpaid donation from people like you and me. Donation is an act of solidarity and altruism, which the world needs now more than ever in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Trinidad and Tobago blood donation
According to the Ministry of Health, “In Trinidad and Tobago, just over 20,000 units of blood are donated by the members of the public annually. However, it is recommended that we should collect one unit for every 20 people every year. Given the size of our population, we actually need 70,000 units of blood per year. The need for blood is increasing in Trinidad and Tobago and young people can make an important contribution by donating blood and by recruiting other young people to become donors.” A 2019 survey shared that only 12% of millennials were blood donors or keen on donating blood. Many sighted fear of needles and the process as their main reason for not considering this “Gift of Life”.
What happens when I give blood?
Whether you are a first-time or regular donor, the blood service must make sure that you will come to no harm by donating blood. Your health is very important to the blood transfusion service and blood will not be taken unless you can safely give a donation that day.
- Before you give blood, you will be asked questions about your medical history, including any medication you are taking, and about your current health and lifestyle. You may also be asked about recent travel and other personal information. All shared, will be kept confidential and will not be used for any other purpose.
- It is very important to be truthful about any reasons why your blood might not be suitable. Although blood is always tested for infections that can be transmitted by transfusion, such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis, a test may not be able to detect a very recent infection. This means that even though the blood may test negative for a particular infection, it might still infect a patient receiving a blood transfusion.
- After answering the questions, you will also be given a brief medical examination that may include checking your pulse and blood pressure and ensuring that your weight meets a certain minimum.
- Donating blood is very simple. You will be made as comfortable as possible, usually in a special chair or on a bed. The area inside one of your elbows will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution before a trained health worker inserts a sterile needle, connected to a blood collection bag, into your vein. It usually takes about 10 minutes to donate blood.
- After resting for 10 or 15 minutes and taking some refreshment, you will be able to return to your normal activities, although you should avoid strenuous activity for the rest of the day. You should drink plenty of fluids over the next 24 hours.
If you had the COVID-19 vaccine, are you eligible to give blood?
YES. You can donate blood after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, as long as you are symptom-free and feeling well at the time of the donation. It is advisable to walk with your vaccine card and be familiar with the COVID-19 vaccine you received.
Does giving blood after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine reduce a donor’s protection from the virus?
NO. Donating blood after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine does not reduce your protection from the virus. Similar to other vaccines such as measles, mumps or influenza, the COVID-19 vaccine is designed to generate an immune response to help protect an individual from illness. A donor’s immune response is not impacted by giving blood.
Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person – the gift of life. A decision to donate your blood can save a life.
We invite you to join us today to help us save the life of one of our colleagues, Guy Emberru.