Olusola: Blood donation is a healthy process, life saving
Ahead of World Blood Donor Day on Wednesday, Dr. Olowoselu Olusola, a lecturer and consultant, Haematologist and Blood transfusion, at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos Idi-Araba, Lagos, told PAUL ADUNWOKE the importance of blood donations and how lives can be saved through blood donation.
Who is a blood donor?
Let me start by saying that blood transfusion is the collection of blood from a man and infusion of same into the circulation or body of another man. However, this also applies to other animals. Blood donation is a voluntary procedure, where you agree to have blood drawn from you, so that it can be used for someone, who needs a blood transfusion. Annually, millions of people need blood transfusion for one reason or the other, ranging from road traffic accident to excessive bleeding during or after childbirth, while some need it during surgery.
Therefore, blood donors are those individuals, who are ready to allow their blood to be collected for the purpose of transfusing into another individual. It is a voluntary and non-remunerated process, which means donors give blood of their own free will and receive no money or other payment that could be considered as a substitute for money. Although, there are other forms of blood donors like family replacement, which is a situation, where blood is donated to replace the bloodstock used by the family member. Paid donors present a major risk to the safety of blood donated, and this call for concern in Nigeria.
Who is qualified to donate blood?
There are several methods to assess whether an individual is qualified to donate blood or not. Generally, the methods are called the blood donor fitness test. These procedures are necessary to ensure safety of blood and the donors themselves. The individual must be between the ages of 18 to 60 years, they must be in good general health, and must not suffer from any form of medical conditions, including heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Other criteria that are assessed at the time of donation include haemoglobin level, which must not be too low to compromise the individual’s health; hepatitis and HIV status; weight of the individual, which must not be less than 50 kg and body piercing, for example tattoo and the likes. All these are contraindicated for suitability in blood donation.
How important is it for people to donate blood?
A decision to donate blood can save a life or several lives. Blood donation also increases the availability of blood in the blood bank. Therefore, blood donation is one of the most significant contributions that a person can make to the society. The body of an individual, who donates blood, can produce the blood back within few days and it poses no threat to the blood donor. In other words, it is an act of goodness. We now know that people who donate regularly will not have anaemia of elderly as the factory (bone marrow), which produces blood cells would be active throughout life. Donation is a healthy process, because by donating you refresh your system. After blood donation, there is a reduction in blood cell count, and as a result, new cells are regenerated and the entire body of that individual becomes refreshed.
So, donating blood can result in much healthier body, which can increase your life span. In addition, a regular blood donor hardly develops what is referred to as damaging hyperlipidemia. This is a condition where an individual has elevated level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, most importantly the bad type of cholesterol also called LDL-cholesterol, which may be created or elevated as a result of excess iron in the blood.
These oxidized lipids get deposited on the endothelial cell of the blood vessels, thereby causing atherosclerosis, where the blood vessels become hardened. This condition eventually affects the heart and on the long run will lead to heart failure. Therefore, an individual who donates blood regularly will have a moderate amount of iron in the blood, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Blood donation also gives you the opportunity to know if you are fit or not through series of tests that would be performed. Per adventure the individual is declared unfit sequel to the screening process, it is a timely awareness to consult the doctor for check up.
On the average, the human body has about four to five litres of blood for which a donor weighing not less than 50kg can only be allowed to donate about 450 millilitres of blood at a time, once every three months.
There is a booming illegal blood trade in government hospitals. What are the implications?
This nefarious act is common in both government and private health facilities. It can also be referred to as blood touting or racketeering, where some individuals donate weekly. This presents a major risk to the safety of blood transfusion, as such infections as HIV and hepatitis are commonly found among these blood touts, which constitute a risk to the recipients than serve as benefit.
As they donate frequently more than the stipulated number of times an individual is allowed to donate, the quality of blood donated by them is poor. This practice also discourages the voluntary, non-remunerated system of blood donation, which is the foundation of safe and quality blood supply. These paid donors also constitute risk to themselves, as they may collapse during the process of donation, if they continue in this act more frequently than required.
What are the statistics of blood needed in the market?
In line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation, to get the required amount of blood to fully manage issues such as transfusion challenges, hemorrhagic challenges, obstetric challenges, road accident challenges and so on, Nigeria must generate about 1.8 million pints of blood per annum. This means if there are 180 million individuals in Nigeria as estimated, then Nigeria is required to commit about one per cent of its total population towards blood donation. This is a statistical requirement, which Nigeria is yet to meet up with. Presently, blood supplies are not sufficient to meet the requirement, as only five percent of blood used in Nigeria comes from voluntary blood donors. Others are from blood touts and family replacement.
Do economic challenges in the country affect blood donors?
If we are clamouring for a voluntary non-paid donor system of blood donation, which is without financial benefits, then it might be safe to say that economic situation of the country should have minimal effect on blood donors in extending their acts of kindness.
However, I have said “minimal effect,” because I know that the consequences of poor economy may lead to increase in the population of unfit blood donors, due to poor feeding, starvation, and lack of enthusiasm. Unfit blood donors are a type of blood donors, who have failed to pass through blood donor fitness tests and are thus disqualified from donating blood at a given time.
Many patients requiring transfusion do not have timely access to safe blood. The foundation of a safe blood supply is through voluntary non-paid donor. Their primary motivation is to help unknown patient and not to obtain any personal benefits. Hence, blood transfusion, which is made possible by availability of blood from blood donors saves lives and improves health. Blood donation does not cause harm to a blood donor, but is rather of great health benefit. However, no one is immune to blood transfusion in unforeseen occurrences. So, let us all not be blood donors only when we are obliged to be.
I want to implore every one not to wait until disaster strikes before giving blood. People should donate blood now and often. Blood is an important resource for both planned treatment and urgent intervention. So, I would advise that everybody should cultivate the habit of donating blood.
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