The South African National Blood Service aims to achieve goals of 3000 units of blood per day, collected around the country. This ensures a safe and sufficient blood supply in the health care system, allowing for enough blood to supply the average needs. But as in any case, the more, the better. As it stands, less than 1% of South Africans are active blood donors. As a single unit of blood only lasts around 42 days after donation, getting fresh blood regularly is key to ensuring the survival of many. Donors can give blood as often as every eight weeks, meaning the average, healthy person can save multiple lives just by donating every two months or so. With such a small target in context of the size of our healthy population, it should be easy to surpass these targets. Sadly this is not the case. Just such a small percentage of South African donating blood, it can be tricky to sustain even such a seemingly small number.
Donating blood is simple enough, with stations around the country operating on a daily basis – as well as mobile stations. Generally speaking, the suggested donator should be considered healthy and lead a low risk lifestyle. Certain elements like piercings, permanent makeup or tattoos can affect your ability to give blood, in these cases you must wait at least six months before donating blood.
By stating “healthy”, it is taken to mean that you feel well and can perform normal, day to day activities. If you have a chronic condition, diabetes for example, “healthy” also means that you are being treated and the condition is under control, but even in this case you may still give blood if deemed healthy.
When donating blood will be required to complete a self-exclusion questionnaire. The questions are intended to assess your health and lifestyle to ensure you are well enough to donate blood. This is important to ensure received blood is not the cause of any risk to a patient who may receive it. This is followed by a one-on-one interview with the nurse who goes through the questions to ensure that the questions are understood. Making sure you fully understand all elements of the process and the importance of being honest on the questionnaire. Your blood pressure and iron levels will be checked through a small prick on the finger before donation can begin.