Benefits of Donating Blood – Business Daily

Health & Fitness

Benefits of Donating Blood

Blood supply is dependent on volunteer donors. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Maintaining adequate blood supply in hospitals is a continuous challenge globally since blood products have limited shelf lives. Kenya is experiencing a shortage of blood and therefore now more than ever, more efforts are required to mobilise donors and help save lives.

Blood supply is dependent on volunteer donors and with increasing restriction of the pool due to the night curfews and lockdowns, more stringent screening processes, and evolving donor eligibility criteria, the shortage is getting worse.

There is also the fear of visiting hospitals during this Covid-19 period. However, hospitals are the safest places because they have put in place measures to ensure safety during this time and that should therefore not discourage potential donors.

Persons between 16 to 65 years old are eligible provided they meet the following additional criteria:


• Bodyweight of more than 50kgs.

• Should not have uncontrolled blood pressure or diabetes mellitus

• Should not be anaemic (haemoglobin above 12g/dl for females and 13g/dl for males)

• Should not have high-risk behaviour for the acquisition of transfusion transmissible infection

What does the process entail?

It is a simple process that entails the insertion of a large-bore needle into a vein on the forearm of an eligible donor. This is then followed by the extraction of about 450ml of blood into a blood bag.

The bag contains various chemicals that prevent clotting and also preserves the unit of blood for between 35 to 42 days under refrigeration.

The donated blood then undergoes multiple testing. It is tested for transfusion transmissible infection (TTI) namely HIV, hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, syphilis and malaria.

Some well-funded blood banks perform pathogens/bacteria reduction techniques to further decrease the risk of TTI transmission. Before the blood unit is issued to the patient, it is also grouped and cross-matched to ensure compatibility with the recipient.

In preparation for blood donation, potential donors should be well-rested, well-fed, and should drink plenty of alcohol/caffeine-free beverages.

Once they arrive at the donation unit, they are provided with donor information and a questionnaire that they are expected to complete. The donor is then evaluated by a nurse or a trained phlebotomist.

Vital signs are taken and haemoglobin level is measured using a point of care machine. If the donor is found eligible then they proceed to donation. One may donate once every 8 to 12 weeks, and repeat donor may benefit from iron supplementation to rebuild their iron stores post-donation.

Are there complications that may arise after donation?

There are a few rare complications; itchy skin as a result of the needle insertion which may be managed by the use of a cold compress, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. Adequate intake of fluids normally corrects this complication.

How does the donor benefit from donating blood?

There are a lot of benefits for donors not just limited to the support offered to patients.

After donation, many report emotions ranging from peace and contentment to joy and inspiration. Yet beyond the intrinsic reward, the medical community lauds blood donation for another uplifting reward: major health benefits.

The most touted benefit is improved heart health through the reduction of oxidative stress. Giving blood regularly results in reduced risk of heart attacks and stroke according to the American Medical Association.

A second benefit of donation is a lowered risk of developing cancer. According to a Swedish study, consistent blood donation is associated with lowered risks for cancers of the; liver, lungs, colon, stomach, and throat.

Fundamentally, each time you donate, you check up on your health including blood pressure, haemoglobin, and other vital signs monitoring. For those able to donate every time they are eligible at three months interval for whole blood, that equates to four medical exams per year, free of charge.

So often we see blood appeals from people around us. We are therefore encouraging eligible donors to volunteer to donate blood to save lives.

We are also requesting regular platelet donors who will be part of a donor registry and will be called upon regularly to donate platelets. This is because donated platelets only last five days and therefore require regular replenishment.

An apheretic machine separates the blood into its various components transfusing back to the donor what is not needed and only retaining the platelets.

Dr Okinda is a consultant haematologist and clinical pathologist at Aga Khan University Hospital.

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