Benefits of Blood Donation, by Experts

On 12/Jul/2019 / In Articles

The Ayedeye family still bear the scars of the untimely death of their wife and mother despite the passage of time. With her pregnancy less than eight months old, Fatimah found it amiss that blood oozed from her private part, prompting her to alert her family members for help.
 
She was rushed to the General Hospital in Epe, Lagos, where a caesarean operation was recommended. However, after the surgery, she was in dire need of transfusion, but blood was impossible to get. She died, though her baby, a girl, survived. That was three years ago.
 
Deaths arising from absence or inability to afford life-saving transfusions are regular in Nigeria, being one of the countries with the lowest blood donation rates. As far as medical doctors are concerned, deaths like Fatimah’s are avoidable, if the country meets her prescribed blood transfusion requirement.
 
With the fourth-highest maternal mortality rate in the world, the giant of Africa accounts for 19 per cent of all maternal deaths globally. Postpartum haemorrhage (or loss of too much blood following birth) is fingered as the leading cause of such deaths in a country where there is no equitable access to safe blood and blood products.
 
As explained by experts in transfusiology or transfusion medicine, one blood donation may indeed save up to three lives. Almost every second, someone is in need of blood or may depend on lifesaving transfusions to remain alive. This explains why, in the medical parlance, blood donors are regarded as altruists because their heroic donations help patients of all ages: accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer. Donated blood can also help in managing patients suffering from bleeding disorders, chronic anemia associated with cancer, sickle cell anemia, and other hereditary blood abnormalities.
 
Whenever a patient receives blood, doctors say the public should know that it was given in advance by a donor – either voluntary or paid for. Therefore, there’s no substitute for blood, since it cannot be manufactured; people are the only source of getting it. As the donor savours the satisfaction that comes with giving blood, which saves the life of fellow human beings who are in need, the giver too gets hugely compensated in the process. A mini-health examination that includes a checklist for diseases related to blood pressure and infections is often conducted before collecting blood. This is why people with AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases are never allowed to donate blood. Similarly, pregnant women and other intending donors who have taken vaccinations or have undergone surgery are advised to consult a medical professional before doing so.
 
Before every blood donation, donors are mandated to get their iron (haemoglobin) level checked; blood pressure and pulse rate are also taken. This will be of great benefit, as any potential “red flags” will be discovered, says Dr. Saheed Bello, senior registrar, Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital (LAUTH). Because hospitals, clinics and blood banks subject every intended blood donor to several medical tests free, it sometimes helps the donor to know his or her health status with a view to doing something about it. In the hospital laboratories and blood banks, the rule of thumb is that every donor must pass through a free prior health screening plus mini-blood test, including an HB level test as well as a blood pressure and body check. Many donors’ lives have been saved from discovering their medical status during tests before being cleared for blood donation, he said.
 
But getting to know one’s health status is not the only benefit blood donors get from giving their blood. Regular donation of one’s blood helps in advancing the donor’s heart health in many ways. Committed blood donors regularly eliminate excess iron. By reducing iron in the blood cells, blood donation can also reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. By reducing iron in the blood cells, blood donation can also reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
 
Studies have found that regular blood donors have fewer heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood every six months. Bello said donating blood improves the  cardiovascular health of the donor because increasing level of iron in the blood raises the chance of heart disease. Because regular donation of blood helps to lower the amount of iron in the blood, especially in males, experts explain that this can reduce the chance of heart attack by 88 per cent; just as regular blood donation can lower the risk of severe cardiovascular events such as stroke by as high as 33 per cent.
 
Donating blood also aids new red blood cells production, a boon to the donor.
 
According to Prof Sulaiman Akanmu, a consultant haematologist and head of Heamatology and Transfusion Department, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), when blood is donated, the donor’s body begins replenishment of the lost blood.
 
New cells are produced by marrow within 48 hours of donation, and the red blood cells the donor loses during donation are  replaced, thereby helping the donor to stimulate the production of new blood cells, which helps in replenishing the body to stay healthy and work more efficiently.
 
Research has also suggested that regular blood donation reduces the risk of having cancer. Iron has also been thought to increase free-radical damage in the body besides being linked to an increase in risks of cancer and aging. Experts said consistent blood donation can bring about lower risks of cancers including liver, lung, colon, and throat cancers due to the reduction in oxidative stress when iron is released from the bloodstream.
 
Donating blood regularly can also improve the donor’s fitness. Donating one pint of blood (450 ml) burns 650 calories in donor’s body. Akanmu said many elderly people who are in good health have reported feeling invigorated and re-energised by giving blood on a regular basis. Giving blood helps to lower the risk of cancer in donors. The heamatologist stressed that consistent blood donation helps in lowering risks of cancers, including liver, lung, colon, stomach and throat cancers, with risk levels dropping in correlation with how regular donors donate blood.
 
Despite humongous benefits in blood donation, Nigeria suffers the unfortunate fate of not having enough blood that can cater for the transfusion requirement of her population. Like in countries with poor voluntary blood donation culture, the result is a huge harvest of avoidable deaths as a result of non-availability of adequate quantity of blood in the banks to transfuse. No thanks to myths and misconceptions about blood donation among the public. Many are still  fearful of donating blood because of misconceptions about what they assume to be the effects on the donor, despite appreciable improvement in access to information nowadays.
 
When called upon to donate blood either for replacement purposes or during annual global blood donation campaigns, many fiercely rebuff such calls because of their belief that giving their blood is injurious to their own health; many feel donating blood will make them weak and susceptible to sicknesses. It is also assumed  that donors may contract dangerous infections, such as HIV from donating blood. Even many educated minds who  mouth their desire to give blood often end up claiming they are too busy to afford the time to donate; while, some cite their clinical fear of needles for preventing them from donating. Worse still, in Nigeria and other African countries where devotion to religions is gradually assuming frightening levels of human fanaticism, many readily decline to give blood by hinging their position on religious or cultural reasons.
 
However, such fears and myths about blood donation are unfounded, said Akanmu. Donating blood voluntarily is an act of selflessness, since making a gift of blood is not  compelled by law, he added. Unlike giving to charity, which is sometimes veiled by economic, political or socio-cultural motives, the act of donating blood is purely to save lives. Victims of illnesses like blood cancer, hemophilia, as well as those who need trauma care need blood transfusions to stay alive.
 
As Akanmu explained it, by donating blood, many whose situation may otherwise be hopeless are saved through transfusion. This is only possible when blood is readily available in the bank, as such patients in critical need may not be assured of having a second lease of life if blood becomes unavailable.
 
“When you donate blood, you impact not only the patient whose life may depend on your donation, but also all those who depend on that patient. The entire community will benefit from the spirit of generosity,” he said.
 
“When we say transfusion requirement, we are referring to conditions that normally require that blood is given to an individual. Top on the list of such conditions are ghastly road accidents, building collapse, and gun injuries. These are things that just occur for one reason or the other.
 
“There are also standard medical conditions, which will always occur in any given community for which we will require transfusion to manage. Top on the list of these medical conditions are obstetric women or women whose uterus refuses to contract after giving birth, resulting in massive bleeding (postpartum heamorrahge). Or some women who develop bleeding conditions during pregnancy, particularly when their placenta is abnormally located. These dire obstetric situations consume the large chunk of blood transfusion in many hospitals.
 
“There is also surgical bleeding or bloody operation (when a patient does not stop bleeding during surgery). There are also transfusion dependent anaemias. All these occur naturally in every community. That is why it is necessary to have at least five per cent of eligible donor population to donate blood at least once in a year to be able to meet the transfusion requirement of that community. If you assume that Nigeria is just a community and if you assume that there are 200 million of us living in Nigeria, the eligible donor population (people between 18 and 65; the stratum of population that is capable of donating blood), let us assume it is about  80 million people. You are saying of five per cent of about 90 million people must donate blood at least once in a year to be able to meet the transfusion requirement of Nigeria.
 
“If we go by that arithmetic, Nigeria needs to collect at least 5 million pants of blood for Nigeria to say it has collected sufficient amount of blood to meet her transfusion requirement. But how much of blood do we collect per annum in Nigeria. The last time the estimate was done in Nigeria, it was 1.5 million units of blood, a far cry from what Nigeria needs to collect per annum to meet her transfusion requirement,” Akanmu said.
 
The implication of not having enough people to donate blood voluntarily is that many women will continue to die from pregnancy-related heamorrhage.
 
“What this implies is that a lot of our people are dying unnecessarily from gunshot injuries because we are not able to meet transfusion requirement. It also means a lot of our people are dying as a result of ghastly road accidents because a number of accident victims that make it to the hospital will not be salvaged because there is no blood in the blood bank. This is because we are collecting less than the quantity that is estimated to be our blood transfusion requirement,” he said.

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