Giving Blood: an Act that Makes a Difference

Do you tend to find excuses not to donate blood? Why not set some time aside in your schedule to donate blood?

Blood: a fluid essential to life

Blood, the red liquid vital to the proper functioning of the human body, represents different things depending on the time and the context. Often associated with pain and suffering, it may be seen as frightening evidence of an accident or health problem. In past eras, it was used as part of sacrifices during religious rituals. Today, many people know that blood also serves to protect health and ensure survival when used for blood transfusions, for instance.

Blood is a biological fluid consisting of several components and substances, including water, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Its composition allows it to perform several critical functions, including: 

  • carry oxygen to the muscles and organs to keep them healthy
  • deliver nutrients to cells throughout the body
  • remove waste from organs
  • defend the body from bacteria and foreign substances
  • keep the body hydrated

When a person loses too much blood, many serious problems, including death, may ensue. Unfortunately, researchers have not yet succeeded in creating an artificial substance that could totally replace lost blood. Due to blood’s highly complex nature, the only available option is to use blood donated by healthy individuals.

Donating blood

When you donate blood, you are cared for from start to finish by healthcare professionals (most often, nurses) and volunteers, who strive to make the experience as positive as possible. Expect it to take about an hour to complete all the stages of the blood donation process.

If the amount of blood taken during a donation seems impressive to you, keep in mind that it represents only 1/12 of the total blood volume flowing in your body. Moreover, your body will have no difficulty regenerating the donated blood. In less than 24 hours, plasma is fully replenished; and after about eight weeks, all of the blood components have been replaced. This means that a person can give blood every eight weeks without harming their health, making it possible for each person to donate blood six times a year!

In the laboratory, blood is not preserved in its original form. Using sophisticated equipment, the blood’s components are separated, in order to better meet patients’ needs. Thus, a person who needs only red blood cells will only receive these. So, a single blood donation can be used to help many people!

Contraindications for blood donation

If blood donation is not conducted in optimum conditions, it can involve certain risks, including the transmission of certain diseases (e.g., HIV, hepatitis B or C infections). However, the Héma-Quebec team takes many precautions to ensure that collected blood is free from disease and safe for transfusion. First, the potential donor accompanied by a nurse, must complete a stringent questionnaire before any blood is taken. If a condition deemed risky is detected, blood donation will not be permitted. Moreover, several tests are completed in the laboratory on each collected bag of blood to eliminate any risk of contamination.

Contraindications exist and are subject to controls to protect both the donor and the recipient. Here are some situations where it is not possible to donate blood:

  • being under the age of 18
  • using intravenous drugs
  • weighing less than 50 kg (110 lbs)
  • having given birth in the last six months
  • taking certain medications
  • being a man who has had sex with another man in the last three months
  • having travelled to certain parts of the world

Other conditions may also prevent you from donating blood. On duty nurses at the donation site will be able to inform you according to your situation.

Saving lives

A person may need a blood transfusion for a number of reasons, such as a car accident, cancer, or another disease. In Quebec, over 1,000 transfusions are performed daily to save lives. This shows just how valuable blood donations are and the importance of the fact that hundreds of people choose to be donors. 

If you need more convincing, here are some interesting facts:

  • An hour of your time can save up to four lives!
  • The daily need for blood is great: a transfusion must be performed about every 80 seconds in Quebec. This means that three or four persons have probably received transfusions while you have been reading this text!  
  • You or a family member may require a transfusion one day.
  • Several Globule Blood Donor Centres are now open daily, offering greater accessibility.

A blood donation is the best gift you can give to anyone, young or old. If you have never given blood, inquire about the date of the next blood drive in your city and bring a companion for support. You'll be proud to say that you helped to save lives. If you already give blood, continue to do so and encourage a friend who has never donated to take the big step towards saving lives.

For additional information about blood donation, visit the Héma-Québec website at: http://www.hema-quebec.qc.ca/index.en.html.

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Giving Blood: an Act that Makes a Difference

Perhaps you find excuses for not giving blood: you’re afraid of needles, you don’t have time, you don’t know when the blood drive is… Here are some compelling arguments that should encourage you to overcome your fears and make the necessary time in your schedule.
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