Pic credit: SANBS.

“Approximately 3300 units of blood are required in South Africa every single day,” according to Ivor Hobbs, Regional Marketing Manager at the South African National Blood Service (SANBS).

So, why don’t you donate blood?

Are you scared of needles? We understand if you are. But a small needle prick could mean the difference between life and death for you or a loved one someday, should a blood transfusion be required. So, why not face your fear and be brave for just a few minutes, and save up to three people’s lives, simply by becoming a regular blood donor?

Tamlyn Africa, Cape Town, says: “I’m not one for needles but I must admit; my very first donation was easy-peasy and not painful at all. The staff are all really nice and extremely attentive. It goes so quickly and you don’t feel a thing.”

Pic credit: SANBS.

Some might say: “A fear is still a fear, no matter how irrational it is, or how great the outcome of facing it may be”. Granted. But say you have a fear of spiders. Would facing that fear, by holding a spider, save a woman haemorrhaging due to pregnancy complications, as well as her unborn child? No, but facing your fear of needles could.

Sulizma Shultz, Port Edward, says: “I do it because I think it’s one of the easiest ways to make a HUGE difference in other people’s lives, and it literally doesn’t cost me a thing. PLUS, it’s the best excuse not to go to the gym after work.”

Are you worried about contracting a disease? “Every needle, blood bag, cotton ball, alcohol swab, and everything else used, which comes in contact with the donor and their blood, is only used once and is destroyed afterwards,” says Hobbs.

Not only that. Every single unit of blood is tested, every single time a donor donates blood.  “SANBS has some of the best processing and testing labs available anywhere in the world. Every unit of blood is checked for blood type, and undergoes an extensive antibody test for HIV, HBV, HCV, and Syphilis.” Every unit is also subjected to a Nucleic Acid Amplification (NAT) Test. The NAT Test physically tests for the presence of the aforementioned diseases, dramatically reducing the window period.

“SANBS was the first blood service in the world to introduce NAT testing on a large scale.  Furthermore, SANBS provides an extensive range of specialised services, including HLA testing for transplant patients, cryopreservation of stem cells and many other services, which ultimately makes SANBS a cornerstone of the South African healthcare system.”

Pic credit: Creative Commons.

Some people feel a little bit light-headed after donation, however, and that’s why it is advised that donors eat prior to their donation. “I normally don’t feel bad or faint or anything, I’m just tired for the rest of the day. I’m also not really squeamish for blood or needles, so it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just really important to eat something substantial at least 4 hours before you go, and drink loads of water,” says Sulizma.

Pic credit: SANBS.

Hobbs says South Africans, in general, are willing when it comes to donating. “People do want to contribute and we see that when we run big promotions. However, many people don’t donate because it is not always particularly convenient for them. In some instances there are myths and misunderstandings which prevent people from giving blood.”
The SANBS completely respects different beliefs and cultures. That being said, through their education efforts, influencer marketing, and other platforms, “…we try to give people the information they may need to help them better understand the process.”

Tamlyn says she started donating blood in 2011. When she was in grade 11, a Mobile Blood Donation Unit went to her high school. “At the time, one of my closest friends’ father was diagnosed with Leukemia. As a group of friends, we did everything we could to be there for her. However, when the mobile unit came to our school, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to show her our support. We decided we would donate blood in honour of our friend’s father. I still donate to this day, and I’ll never forget the first time I donated and my reason for doing so.”

Pic credit: SANBS.

If you can’t donate, for personal or medical reasons, Hobbs then asks that you help the SANBS by recruiting other blood donors or by helping to arrange blood drives in your neighbourhood and surrounds, or at your workplace.

SANBS does run regular advertising campaigns, which include television, radio, outdoor and digital advertising. “We also have employees who are incredible brand advocates and all of us are responsible for educating our existing and potential donors. Our regular donors are called and contacted via email and text when they are due to donate again.” This is an ongoing task and SANBS is constantly striving to improve its awareness efforts to ensure that more people donate blood on a more regular basis.

“The reason I started donating blood was because I could help others in a big way, by doing something so small, without much trouble, and without taking up much of my time,” says Christo Oelofse, Pretoria. “It is a great feeling knowing that my blood could have saved someone’s life.”

Pic credit: SANBS.

June is Blood Donation Month, and World Blood Donor Day is commemorated annually on the 14th of June.

Visit the SANBS website: www.sanbs.org.za
Facebook: @SANBS
Twitter: @theSANBS
Instagram: @theSANBS