Blood Donation

by - V. Mohan Rao ( Freelance Journalist)

Donating blood means giving life to some one and it is believed that voluntary blood donors command the highest respect for their sacrifice. The World Blood Donor Day in June every year reminds the people of their social responsibility of saving the lives of those needing blood. The celebration of the blood donor day assumes importance with the growing clinical demand for blood globally to support advancements in medical and surgical procedures.

The annual event highlights the role of the blood donors in saving the lives and improving the health of millions and creates awareness about the availability, safety and appropriate use of blood and blood products. In 2008, the theme of World Blood Donor Day is – Giving Blood Regularly – to support national blood donor programmes in building a stable base of voluntary unpaid donors, who make a long-term commitment to blood donation. The resolution passed by the World Health Assembly in 2005 recognized that voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors, who donate blood regularly, are integral to safe, adequate and sustainable blood supply.

Voluntary blood donors donate blood of their own free will for altruistic reasons and get no reward except personal satisfaction. Patients, who receive blood of their group, feel a sense of being cared for by others who they will never meet. The blood donor day emphases the importance of regular donation by eligible donors in enabling blood collection to be planned to meet national requirements for specific blood groups and blood components and thus ensures access to safe blood transfusion when needed.

Brief History of Blood Donor Day
14th of June every year is celebrated universally as the World Blood Donor Day. It started from the year 2004 coinciding with the birthday of Karl LandSteniner, the Nobel Prize Winner, who had discovered the ABO blood group system. The World Blood Donor Day provides a special opportunity to thank all the voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors. The day has been selected by three major organizations working for voluntary non-remunerated blood donation. They are--The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, The International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations and The International Society of Blood Transfusion. The Day has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, which co-sponsors the event. Several millions owe their existence to people they may never meet those, who donate their blood without any reward or remuneration.

Despite these noble acts by many, 'safe' blood is denied to the overwhelming majority of the world's population. Of the 80 million units of blood that are donated each year, only 38% is collected in developing countries, where a staggering 82% of the world's population live. Several third world countries are still dependent on paid donors although the vast majority of donated blood comes from family members or friends of the patients. In developed countries, on an average 50 out of 1,000 people donate blood as against only 10 in developing countries. In India, it is as low as 5 out of 1000 people donate blood.

Blood Shortage
There is a huge mismatch between the supply and demand of blood in India. Only 5.5 million units (300cc) of blood is collected as against the demand of 8 million units. This is attributed to the shortage of donors and inefficient usage of donated blood, pathologists feel. Statistics show that each unit of blood donated can save three lives but in case of India it saves only one life. It is because of the shortage of blood component separators in the country.

Blood donation & HIV/AIDS
The voluntary and unpaid blood donation ensures safe blood supply because of the reduced possibility of transmitting potentially life-threatening organisms, such as the HIV and Hepatitis viruses.

Importance of Blood donation
Blood is needed every two seconds. Accidents, premature babies, major surgeries require Whole blood. Trauma, Anemia, other surgeries require only RBC, which is separated from donated blood. Blood is needed at regular intervals and at all times as it has only finite time to store. Red blood cells can be stored for about 42 days, Fresh Frozen Plasma and Cryoprecipitate for a year and platelets for 5 days. People above 18 years weighing more than 50 kgs (110lbs) can donate blood. In India, around 60 per cent of the blood donation is voluntary and the government is planning to set the target at 90 per cent.

Benefits

It enhances the production of new Red Blood Cells. As the blood is withdrawn from the donor’s body, there is decrease in blood cells. To replenish it, immediately new cells are produced by marrow and this way blood gets refreshed. Thus donating blood helps in stimulating operation of new blood cells. It also reduces the chances of heart diseases. Iron is involved in oxidation of cholesterol and this process is believed to be detrimental for the arteries. Increased blood iron level favours this process of cholesterol oxidation and thus leads to heart diseases. Regular blood donation helps especially males in loosing iron on regular basis. It helps in reducing the chance of heart attack to one third. One can diet or remain fit by donating blood regularly. One pint of blood (450 ml) when donated burns 650 calories in donor’s body. Blood donation invigorates feelings in elderly people.

National AIDs Control Organisation

The government is going to implement the National Blood Transfusion Services Act, soon to ban malpractices related to blood donation. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has prepared the draft of the Act, under which those people who are found selling or buying blood would be penalized and jailed for six months. The draft has been sent to the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry for approval. NACO also recommended the setting up of an autonomous body to monitor the collection, storage, distribution and supply of safe blood. Considering the huge shortage of blood, the government should take effective measures to encourage blood donors, particularly those willing to donate voluntarily.

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