14 June 2023
On Wednesday 14 June 2023, World Blood Donor Day will once again be celebrated around the world. Officially designated as an annual event by the World Health Assembly in 2005, the day provides a special opportunity to celebrate and thank voluntary blood donors around the world for their gift of blood, and to mobilise support at national, regional and global levels from governments and development partners to invest in, strengthen and sustain national blood programmes.
Why it’s so important
Blood plays a vital role in all medical and surgical procedures. Every year, millions of lives are saved by blood transfusions and blood products. It helps patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses to live longer and gives them a better quality of life. Access to sufficient blood can save many who suffer severe blood loss in accidents, bleeding during and after childbirth, and patients undergoing chemotherapy.
What you can do to help
Here on St Helena, the Pathology Department has a panel of 180 ‘mobile blood donors’ from across the Island. Although this seems like a reasonable number, it is still not enough. Blood can only be stored for 35 days and St Helena policy is for donors to give blood no more than twice a year. This is why a register of all voluntary blood donors is kept, and rather than hold a bank of blood in reserve, donors are instead asked to give their blood when needed to avoid major wastage.
We are always looking for new blood donors, especially those with rhesus-negative groups (e.g. ‘O’ negative, ‘A’ negative, ‘B’ negative and ‘AB’ negative). On the current registry, we only have five ‘O’ negative donors, five ‘B’ negative donors, 12 ‘A’ negative donors and one ‘AB’ negative donor. This can be a problem if a patient requires one of these blood types, as such patients can only receive specific rhesus-negative blood. Ideally, we would like to have a list of 150 O+ donors and at least 50 donors for each of the rhesus-negative groups.
Today is an opportunity for the Pathology Department to encourage healthy people to donate blood, to highlight the critical role of voluntary unpaid regular blood and plasma donations in achieving universal access to safe blood products for all populations, and to thank individuals who donate blood regularly in the Island.
How to get in touch and donate
If you are a healthy person between the ages of 17 and 65 and would like to become a blood donor, please contact the Pathology Department via telephone on 22500. The staff there will be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.
It’s sure to be a life-changing experience when you see the difference you can make to someone’s life by donating blood.
Note to Editor:
There are four main blood groups (types of blood); A, B, AB and O. Your blood group is determined by the genes you inherit from your parents. Each group can either rhesus D (RhD) positive or RhD negative, which means in total there are eight blood groups.
Red blood cells sometimes have another antigen, a protein known as the RhD antigen. If this is present, your blood group is RhD-positive. If it’s absent, your blood group is RhD negative.
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