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Ireland needs more blood donations – here is how you can help

Graphic by Lea Heming

Over 3,000 blood donations are needed in Ireland every week. Donations are used to replace red blood cells after injuries, during surgeries or when a body is not able to produce enough blood cells on its own, for example, due to chemotherapy. While they are needed throughout the year, only 3% of the eligible Irish population give blood. This is a serious problem.

Last year, around 133,400 donations were made, which means around 2500 donations per week – 500 less than needed. Donating blood is free, can possibly save a life and it is a way of paying forward. 1 in 4 of us will need a blood transfusion at some point in our lives.

How does donating work?

Before you can donate, you need to register your details and fill out a health and lifestyle questionnaire. After doing so, a drop of blood will be taken to analyse your iron levels. After a medical screening process, you sit down on a donation bed with a pressure cuff around your upper arm.

A doctor or nurse will then proceed to insert a needle into your arm, which draws blood into a bag stored out of your sight. The bag stores around 470 ml of blood.

A donation takes between 10 and 15 minutes.

Graphic by Lea Heming

Can I donate?

In order to donate blood, you must be healthy, between 18 and 65 and weigh a minimum of 50kgs. However, there are additional factors determining if you are eligible or not.

You can not give blood if you have ever gotten a blood transfusion, you or your partner are HIV positive or you have had Hepatitis B or C. While there are a few more limitations, the best way to figure out if you are eligible is to contact a blood donor centre and speak to doctors on site.

One factor that has been criticised over the past years are the limitations posed on men who have sex with men (MSM). They can not donate blood if they had any sexual relationship with a man within 12 months prior to their planned donation.

What happens to my blood?

The donated blood is processed to filter white blood cells out and separate the red blood cells and platelets out. White blood cells can’t be used when they come from a normal blood donation. Of course, the blood is always tested for a number of diseases to ensure safety for the patients receiving the donation. Visit website if you are interested to learn about leukopaks.

Red blood cells can be used to help people after severe blood loss or when their body can’t produce enough on their own – due to chemotherapy in cancer treatments for example.

Platelets are essential for blood clotting and can be used for heart surgery patients, newborn babies with low platelet counts or burn patients. Platelets only have a shelf-life from 5 to 7 days and with over 22,000 platelet transfusions needed every year, it is crucial to get a constant supply.

All in all, 67% of blood donations go to cancer patients who need transfusions as part of their treatment. 27% is used in surgeries and 6% is used to treat new-born babies.

Donating blood is a great way to do something good and help people out who really need it. For more information on the issue, visit the website of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Have you ever donated blood before? How did it go? Let us know down below.

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