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Tuesday, January 10, 2017
What you can do to save lives: Give us your blood!
What say you on the issue below?
KUALA LUMPUR: The National Blood Centre is calling on more Malaysians to donate blood, especially after the recent long holiday period saw a drop in blood donors, and its supply depleted to less than five days’ worth.
“The reduction of blood donors is a pattern we are seeing, not only in Malaysia but in all parts of the world,” said National Blood Centre director Dr Noryati Abu Amin.
Interested blood donors getting their blood tested before the donation process.
“When there is a long holiday period, people would be busy travelling, and perhaps also busy with the start of the new year – with work, and their children starting school, and so on,” she said.
This year’s drop in blood donations is especially worrying because the Christmas and New Year holidays are so close to Chinese New Year.
“The number of donors who turn up has fallen, and the number of people who organise blood donation drive campaigns is lower less than usual,” said Dr Noryati.
Need for A+ and O+ blood
The National Blood Centre currently has a four-and-a-half-days’ supply of blood.
Dr Noryati said the centre is targeting to have between five and seven days’ worth.
“We can do better. That is why we would like to encourage the public to come forward and donate blood,” she said.
People registering to donate blood at the National Blood Centre.
“We have enough supply at the moment in case there are hospitals or patients that suddenly require urgent blood transfusions.
“But if we don’t do anything, the blood supply will reach a critical level, and we don’t want that to happen,” said Dr Noryati.
She said that the supply of blood from the A+ and O+ groups is “slightly on the lower side” compared with other blood types.
“We are seeing more patients requiring this blood types, so we need to stock up,” she said.
Speaking on the importance of having an adequate supply of blood, Dr Noryati said that the National Blood Centre has to be prepared for unpredictable, emergency cases.
Donated blood is also used to treat medical conditions, in surgery, and to treat blood loss after childbirth.
“By having that seven-day supply, you are assured that patients will get the blood transfusions they need, when they need it,” she said.
ALONE: Khairulnizam makes it a point to donate blood every few months.
On the other hand, Dr Noryati said that the centre does not want to keep a huge supply of blood on hand because it has a shelf life.
“If we have too much stock, the likelihood of the blood being wasted is high,” she said.
“So we must have a good balance of use and supply,” she added.
Dr Noryati said that it is important to note that donated blood cannot be used right away.
It has to be tested and processed into different blood components (red cells, plasma, and platelets), and this usually takes 18 to 24 hours before the blood is ready to be used.
Debunking blood donation myths
Dr Noryati said that there are a lot of myths and unfounded fears about donating blood.
“For example, the myth that you can contract some kind of infection – it is our practice to only use sterile devices.
“They are also for single use only, meaning that once we use a device, it will not be used for anybody else.
“The likelihood of getting an infection from donating blood is just not there,” she said.
Then there is the myth that people get fatter after donating blood.
“There have not been any studies that prove that,” said Dr Noryati.
“Some people have a fear of needles … but if you have that fear, tell us. We can talk to you during the process so you don’t look at the needle,” she said.
Jason Chow (right) feels that it is his duty to donate blood.
In 2015, the National Blood Centre collected more than 700,000 blood bags, according to Dr Noryati.
“From that, (you can estimate that) we have several hundred thousand donors.
“So yes, we have the numbers – but we also want them to donate regularly,” she said.
While “700,000” may seem like a large number, Dr Noryati noted that it represents a very small fraction of Malaysia’s population.
“If you look at the more than 700,000 donations, it means that only about 2.3 percent of our population donates blood,” she said, adding that developed countries aim for 3.5 to 5 percent of their population donating blood.
“We are comfortable, but as we are moving in the direction of developed nation status, we need to increase the number of blood donors in our country,” said Dr Noryati.
Donate blood, save lives
Donating blood just takes a few minutes – and a single donation can save up to three lives.
“When you donate a pint of blood, you are actually helping three patients because you have three products (red cells, plasma and platelets) from your donation,” said Dr Noryati.
Regular blood donor Khairulnizam Turiban, 29, said that he donates blood every couple of months.
“I find it (donating blood) relaxing, and I feel happy that I am able to help someone,” he said when donating blood for the 21st time.
Nurse Nurul Izzah Hazwani Yusof holding a blood bag. Behind her, the National Blood Centre's donation room is practically empty.
Jason Chow, 42, said he feels that it is his duty to donate blood.
“Our blood gets replenished anyway, and blood donation also has health benefits,” said Chow.
“Anyone who can donate blood should donate. It is a good way to help others,” he said.
Unfortunately, Dr Noryati said that many Malaysians do not realise that there is a need for blood donations.
“It is not like a bank where you deposit the money, and take it out when you need it,” she said.
“We need to have constant donations because the use of blood is constant throughout the year.
“We need blood and blood donors every day,” said Dr Noryati.