Become a blood donor. That's the gist of it. I'll tell you a bit about that. I've been trying to write this post for a very long time now. I've been to the donor clinic about four times already in the past two years. It was always something preventing me from donating. Either me not being originally from this country, having to give samples first, or having to wait because I had been traveling, or having to get some medical documentation they needed to verify first. Right now, after my first proper donation, things are finally falling into place. Vesna and I were persistent, if nothing.
Donating blood is not something that was strongly encouraged in our lives. I know that some high-schools did it. I don't think my class did. It was a chance for students to skip a school-day. If you're employed, depending on the country you are located in and your employer, you might get a paid day off, or there might be other incentives. Not in Ireland, though, but it's not something I was looking for. I'm donating because it's the right thing to do and that should be a proper motivation for others as well.
There are people who oppose it out of an overall hidden fear that doing it might lead to complications, that the procedure can cause an infection in the donor's organism, but that fear is largely unfounded. Every kit used for the donation is brand new and safety procedures are strictly adhered to.
While the best thing is to avoid unnecessary transfusion, we are no strangers to receiving it when the need arises. Blood transfusion is used as a support during surgeries and often for children and people over 65. According to the WHO, up to 76% of blood transfusions is for the people over 65. We might as well develop better life practices now and spread the word while we're young, because, when we get older, chances are we'll need a blood transfusion.
This goes hand in hand with the social sensitivity we should have. We might find ourselves in such a situation where blood donation could save our lives. As minuscule as that risk may be, the blood we receive must come from somewhere. In essence, we're all relying on the good will of some stranger and we can be that stranger to someone.
Carl Sagan said that we're all made of stars:
The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are inter-compatible in a way. Depending on the variables, we can share some of the body parts between us. Blood would be one of them.
The overall process of donating is easy. Nowadays, there's a questionnaire mostly comprised of questions about your past and current illnesses (if any), a quick check for iron levels in your blood, and soon after, if everything's OK, you donate blood (or a sample for starters). About 470ml is the norm. In Ireland, a donation can occur every 90 days. However, they will delay your donation date if you have exposed yourself to a risk of contracting something (the exposure criteria differs from country to country), or outright prohibit you. If you are green-lit for a donation, they will still test your blood for a number of things.
Aside from donating blood, there are other options as well:
- donating the platelets which is likely possible even if you're unable to donate blood. They are used for treating bleedings.
- donating the bone marrow. Mostly for treating leukemia patients and anyone in need of it.
Platelets are usually donated by filtering the blood for it and you have to have both arms connected to the machine. For the bone marrow, there are two ways of obtaining it. Either through direct removal from a hip bone, which requires you to stay in a hospital, or by receiving an injection with a medication that increases the production of stem cells. The stem cells get into your bloodstream and the highest concentration of them occurs a few days later. You are supposed to come in at that time and get your blood taken normally. They usually call you when there is a requirement, so you only get registered once and wait.
The ultimate thing you can do with your body in this respect is the organ donation. While you can give a kidney to someone while you're alive, most organ donations happen posthumously. Some countries implement this as part of an inclusive policy, where one must formally opt-out. That is a good approach in my opinion. If you happen to live in a country where you must opt-in, you can do so if you wish. A transplanted organ can save a life.
I hope I convinced you to make a difference. The procedure for blood donation is not that big of a deal and you get a small free health check-up. You can already start planning today.