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Blood.

You know it?

That red stuff that circulates the body, pumped around by the heart. It circulates oxygen and nutrients around the body, whilst getting rid of carbon dioxide and lactic acid.

Today is World Blood Donor Day, the day we remind ourselves of how important and vital blood donation is to helping save lives as well as recognise those who already do so much to help others by donating regularly.

For most of us, blood isn’t something we think about on a daily basis, but for some people it’s literally a matter of life of death. Those with haematological disorders, such as haemophilia, leukemia and anaemia (to name just a few) may require blood transfusions frequently, as well as women suffering from bleeding during pregnancy and/or childbirth and people involved in accidents and emergencies. Products from blood, such as platelets, are also used to help treat those with bone marrow disorders, and red blood cells can be used to treat those with sickle cell anaemia.

Blood is always in need in the UK, especially in summer, where people’s travel plans can often affect their ability to donate.

According to the NHS, the most common blood type in the UK is O+ which accounts for 35% of the population, with A+ coming in second with 30%. The rarest is AB- which accounts for about 1% of the population (full table below). 


(rounded to the nearest whole number; accurate December 2018)

But it’s not quite that simple…here comes the science bit!
1 in 3 donors are O+ and A+, which are important as they make up the majority of the population, so it’s always in demand.
A- blood has the universal platelet type; the negative platelets can be given to people from all blood groups.
B+ blood is important for treating people with sickle cell disease and thalassemia who need regular transfusions.
B- is one of the rarest blood groups so are always needed for lifesaving work; only 2% of current donors in the UK are AB+ and only 1/100 donors are AB- so these donors are crucial to ensuring patients with the same blood group are able to receive their blood and blood products.
O- blood is traditionally known as 'the universal donor', so is often used in an emergency or when a patient’s blood type is unknown.

A chart demonstrating who can give and receive blood is shown below.



So essentially, all blood and all donors are important!

So what exactly does it entail, I hear you ask?

Basically - an appointment, questionnaire, a glass of water, a chat with a nurse, a finger pin prick, a needle and then some tasty treats! A brief overview, I know, but essentially, all it takes is the first step and the rest is pretty easy. You first need to register, then you will be able to book your first appointment. A questionnaire is sent in the post for you to take with you to the appointment (don’t worry if you forget it, they have spares!). You then sit in a waiting area with a glass of water and a leaflet about donation and what it will entail before being taken to a confidential booth to discuss your questionnaire and check your iron levels are adequate (that’s the pin prick).

Once it has been established that you can donate, a nurse or phlebotomist will lead you to a recliner chair, tell you to relax and swab the area for the needle to be inserted into your arm to start extracting blood. The machine might beep a bit, but it just means you should start opening and closing your hand. The whole blood extraction process takes a maximum of 15 minutes, before they slowly raise the seat back and tape your arm back up. You will then be moved slowly to an area with refreshments – my local centre has Club biscuits and Seabrook crisps (winner!).

After you’ve had a short rest, you’re free to leave - but that’s not the best bit… that usually comes within a week to a few months later: a text to your phone telling you where your blood has been used and how it helped to save a life. If you ask me, that's a superb reward with a major 'feel good factor.' 

If you’re interested in finding out how you can give blood and potentially saving someone’s life, click here
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