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When was the last time you helped to save a life? The truth is anyone can – you just need to give blood.
Today is „World Blood Donor Day“
This global action day serves to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank all blood donors. It was initially inaugurated in 2004 by four major international organizations that campaign for safe blood supplies from voluntary unpaid donors. These organizations are the World Health Organization, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Society of Blood Transfusion and the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations. World Blood Donor Day is celebrated every year on July 14th to commemorate the birth of Karl Landsteiner. This was the scientist who first discovered the AB0 blood group system and received the Nobel Prize for this pioneering work in 1930.
Blood transfusions save millions of lives every year
So far it is not possible to produce artificial blood. That’s why blood donation is so important for healthcare worldwide. In a country like Germany for example, there is need for 15.000 transfusion bags per day. People such as cancer patients, accident victims and those with organ transplants are in particular need of blood transfusions and blood products. However, only 3,7 % of the European population actually donates blood despite the fact that nearly every healthy person between the ages of 18 and 59 is allowed to do so.
Blood donation is easy and safe
Giving blood is not a big deal. Prior to every blood donation the donor is checked by a physician. This examination covers general health, medication intake and the quality of blood including, for example, the hemoglobin value which serves as an indicator of the blood’s oxygen transport capability. After someone has been accepted as a donor, arrangements are then made for collection of the blood. Disposable instruments are used for blood sampling to eliminate the risk of any infection from dangerous diseases such as HIV. The procedure usually takes about ten minutes and involves the transfer of about half a liter of venous blood into a transfusion bag. Following another ten minutes of resting the donor can leave. Drinking beverages before and after the blood collection helps to compensate for the loss of fluids.
Behind the scenes: Blood analysis
Even before the AIDS blood scandal in the early 1980’s it was known that blood transfusions could transmit infectious diseases like Hepatitis. That’s why nowadays all blood donations are carefully investigated prior to use. Samples are regular tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and C and for Syphilis. Modern methods like PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and immunoassays are used to detect viruses and antibodies.
Immediately following donation, the blood is sent to a central collecting point housing analytical laboratories. The blood group is initially determined and all blood components and plasma are separated out through centrifugation of the transfusion bag. The plasma is frozen directly, red blood cells and blood platelets are concentrated before being cooled and the white blood cells are disposed. Disease testing also takes place in parallel with this. The whole process from collection through to granting authorization for use usually takes no longer than a day and a half.
Become a Hero – Give blood
Today is the perfect day to start giving blood. You will find a couple of special blood donor events in your town.