Being a hero is in your blood

The world is turned upside down at the moment, and many of us feel powerless. However, there is something you can do. It may not help your loved one, but it may save another – be their miracle. This miracle flows through your veins: your blood.

Due to the pandemic, many regular donors aren’t able to donate. This adds pressure to the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), to supply blood to those who need it.  It is not exactly as if blood can be donated and stockpiled in mass amounts to “carry us through the bad patch”, it is a constant need.

Mopani Pharmacy had a chat with SANBS Donor Relations Practitioner, Lebo Matsimbi, to clarify the process and get the gist of it, straight from the vein, so to speak.

How do I know if my blood is safe to donate?

“You will be required to complete a Donor Questionnaire. The questions are aimed at assessing your health and lifestyle to eliminate any effects that could pose a risk your health and the health of a recipient.

This is followed by a one-on-one interview with the nurse who goes through the questions to ensure that the questions are understood and that the donor understands the importance of being honest on the questionnaire.

Your blood pressure and haemoglobin (iron) levels are checked. If you meet these criteria you may continue donating.

After donating,the samples of your blood will be tested for blood grouping, syphilis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, as well as extended testing that may be necessary to ensure your safety as well as that of the recipient”, Lebo explained.

What measures do you have in place during the COVID pandemic?

“We have Infection prevention control measures, aimed at protecting both our staff and donors. All persons accessing donor clinics are thoroughly screened and anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms or symptoms of COVID 19 is advised to delay donation until they are well.

Blood donation is still safe during this time and persons confirmed with COVID 19 infection or at risk will have to wait between 14 and 28 days from the date of symptom clearance before they can donate blood, depending on the severity of the infection”, Lebo stated.

How much blood are they going to take, and how long does the procedure last?

“It takes about 30 minutes for the whole process; you will donate around 480 millilitres, in accordance with the rules and regulations. We are not permitted to take more than that”, she said.

Is there a recommended diet for someone that donates regularly?

“Not necessarily, but we recommend high iron diet to boost your iron level”, said Lebo.

You can add vitamin C and B-complex and probiotics to boost your iron uptake from within the gut, all of which can be found at Mopani Pharmacy.

If you want to make sure you are eating the correct foods for your blood production, include leafy green vegetables, fish, meats, poultry, eggs, milk and legumes in your diet. Beetroot is also a great addition, packed with iron.

How is blood stored once donated?

“Blood is stored in fridges at the blood banks. The blood is often put through a process to separate red blood cells, platelets and plasma, as patients may have different needs. Red cells can be stored in a fridge, but plasma can be stored in a freezer for a much longer period of time”, Lebo explained. 

How long can it be stored before it expires?

  • Platelets expire in 5 days
  • Red blood cells expire in 42 days
  • Plasma has a 1 year shelf life from the date of collection

Are there things that can “spoil” blood?

  • Temperature ( if stored at the wrong temperature)
  • Haemolysis (breaking of cells if not handled properly)

What type of patients rely on blood?

  • Cancer patients
  • Obstetric and gynaecological cases;
  • Premature babies
  • Trauma patients

Who can donate?

“In order to donate, you need to weigh more than 50 kilograms, be between the ages of 16 and 65, lead a low-risk lifestyle, be in good health, consider your blood safe for transfusion and have a meal or snack within four hours prior to your intended donation. Once you have donated, you will be told when you are allowed to donate again. If you opt for the notification system, you will receive an SMS as well.

You must consider your blood safe for transfusion to patient. We rely on donors’ honesty, so we ask that you do not donate if you have engaged in behaviour that places you at risk of contracting transfusion transmissible infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B,” Lebo explained.

If you are on any medications that may harm a baby or blood thinners, it is not advisable to donate blood. Medications that are typically red flags are anti-inflammatories, aspirin, isotretinoin (acne medication) or malaria treatment / prophylaxis.  Please declare all your medications so that the consultants may refer to their lists for any possible contraindications.

Other instances where you may be asked to wait a while before donating include

  • New tattoo / piercing in last 3 months
  • Major surgery recently
  • Traveling outside the country
  • Dental cleaning / filling in last 72 hours
  • Pregnant / breastfeeding
  • Flu in past 7 days

View the SANBS Donor questionaire here

Where can we donate in Nelspruit?

“We have donor centres at Riverside Mall and i’Langa Mall, open 7 days a week.” The trading hours are as follows:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 09h00-17h00
  • Wednesday: 09h00-18h00
  • Sunday: 09h00-15h00


Read more: 10 Things you did not know about mosquitoes and Malaria

You can get all your blood boosting recovery supplements at Mopani Pharmacy, in-store or online. We can deliver to your doorstep, nationwide!

More info: | | Tel: 013 755 5500 | WhatsApp: 066-192-1703

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