Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Jelitza Johnson | You’re someone’s blood type

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Jelitza Johnson

Whether you realise it or not, even at this very moment, someone out there not only wants you, but needs you.

Someone is desperately seeking the unique thing that gives a warm, fuzzy, tingly, heart-pounding feeling inside. And you - yes, you - have exactly what they are longing for. You have been blessed with the amazing, life-saving gift of healthy blood.

Somewhere out there lies a perfect match for you. Be it a haemophiliac, a cancer patient, a pregnant woman, a sickle-cell patient, or even an accident victim - you are someone's type. And your connection to this special someone is just one prick away.

'Blood Connects Us All' is the theme for the 13th annual commemoration of World Blood Donor Day - a global public health campaign celebrated every June 14 by all member states of the World Health Organization, including Jamaica.

MYTH VERSUS REALITY

The most common myth about blood donation is that giving blood hurts. Giving blood does require one of your veins being penetrated by a needle, but the pain experienced is not much more than the prick you felt when you got your last vaccine. There may be a slight soreness in the needle-pricked area after donation - but it is bearable and lasts just a few hours.

Another myth is that vegetarians will never meet the requirements for donating blood. The fact is that a normal to high haemoglobin count (which depends on your body's iron level) is vital to the blood donation process. So anyone who maintains a balanced diet, or takes adequate iron-rich supplements - vegetarian or not - should be eligible to give blood.

Okay, fair enough. But persons who have tattoos definitely can't give blood, right? Wrong! After you get a tattoo, there is a 12-month deferral period during which you will not be allowed to donate. This is enough time for you to become aware of any blood-borne disease you may have contracted from tattooing. Therefore, if you're still healthy after the deferral period, you are free to give blood.

You may have also heard some truths about blood donation. For example, you cannot be underweight if you're to be a blood donor. You also must be at least 17 years old, have had an adequate meal, and be in good general health, with your most recent donation being at least three months prior.

IMPORTANCE OF

BLOOD DONATION

The National Blood Transfusion Service in Jamaica continuously struggles with low reserves and is constantly at risk of running out of blood at any given time - a foreseeable tragedy.

When your loved ones require transfusions, they do not have timely access to safe blood. So you actually become what is referred to as a replacement donor. This means that your loved ones will not directly receive the blood you have donated, but rather blood from the Blood Bank, which is then replaced by the blood you donate - only if it is tested to be healthy and reliable.

Put yourself in the Blood Bank's shoes for a moment, by pretending you having a measly $1,000 in your own bank account. You realise that this amount of money cannot do much, and you are desperately seeking out good Samaritans who will take note of your need and be kind enough to give you some handouts. But, instead of this happening, you give $700 to an even needier friend who promises that a good Samaritan will come and replace it soon.

Later on, a good Samaritan does, in fact, come by, and returns the $700, as promised. Did a good Samaritan just come by? Yes! But are you any better off than you were before? No! You still have a measly $1,000 and you still need extra money - lots of it.

Needless to mention that if an emergency had arisen which forced you to use the $300 before the good Samaritan came, you would have been completely bankrupt, facing the risk of dying from hunger. Now, do you get a glimpse as to why the Blood Bank needs far more voluntary donors than it does replacement donors? We need to focus on increasing the reserves of blood and blood components before they are required - not when our loved ones are in dire need.

So decide, take the prick and commit to becoming a voluntary blood donor today. For more information, and to find your nearest blood collection centre, contact the National Blood Transfusion Service at telephone numbers 922-5181-4 or 967-2924 or by email at bloodserviceja@gmail.com.

n Jelitza Johnson is an actuarial science graduate of the UWI whose passion for voluntary blood donation was sparked in 2011 while pursuing her degree there. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jjohnson5354@gmail.com.