Many of us are thinking what we might achieve in 2015: resolving to attain those personal goals. But have you considered resolving to help save a life this year?
Taking the time to donate blood really could help save a life. According to statistics on the Give Blood website, just 4 per cent of the population donate blood, although all of us would expect blood to be there when we need it.
I was the grateful recipient of a blood transfusion in February 2014. I had my son Hugo by emergency Caesarean section when I was just 24 weeks’ pregnant because I had the rare, life threatening pregnancy complications pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. HELLP stands for Haemolysis (anaemia), Elevated liver enzymes, and Low Platelets.
Platelets are what helps the blood to clot. The normal platelet count for an adult is between 150 and 400 – my platelet count at the time Hugo was born was 54. I lost 1.2 litres of blood (a little more than two pints) during the C-section.
I was also severely anaemic: normal haemoglobin levels should be between 14 and 20, but mine crashed to just seven.
A transfusion wasn’t immediately given because the loss of a fifth of your body’s blood is considered small, and your body can usually replace the blood itself. However, my body struggled to replace the blood – probably due to the severe anaemia I had anyway, and the overall trauma of HELLP syndrome and I received a transfusion of red blood cells about a week after Hugo was born.
My recovery improved in leaps and bounds after receiving the transfusion. Before it, I had felt constantly faint and weak, and had to be taken to the toilet in a wheelchair. I was also at increased risk of catching an infection, which would have meant I wouldn’t have been allowed to have gone to the neonatal intensive care unit to visit Hugo. Hugo was so tiny and fighting for his life: I wanted to spend every possible moment with him, and could not bear the thought of being kept away from him.
Hugo also received many blood transfusions during his life – blood transfusions are common for premature babies. Sadly, Hugo died aged 35 days. He was too small and premature, and his lungs were not developed enough.
I was so grateful to whoever had taken the time to donate blood. That blood helped hasten my physical recovery, and spend more precious time with my precious baby. The blood Hugo received helped him gain strength and fight a little bit more.
The Give Blood website has charts showing stocks of the different types of blood – I was shocked to see how low they are, with less than 10 days’ stock of AB positive blood, for example, and around four days’ stock for O positive and O negative in the blood banks.
To my shame, I have donated blood only once in my life. I kept planning to donate again, but never got around to it. I had resolved to donate in thanks for my transfusion, but then discovered that unfortunately I am not allowed to because of my transfusion. There are a few other groups who aren’t allowed to donate too. While donated blood is given stringent screening, these exclusions are designed to protect recipients from potential harm from blood borne viruses and diseases.
So, I am not able to practise what I preach, but I can repay the debt by encourage other people who are able to donate blood to do so. A quarter of the population will need a blood product at some point in their lives, whether it is the result of an accident, blood loss following an operation or childbirth. Some people may need a donation of red blood cells because of anaemia (there are many different types, and some require regular red blood cell transfusions), and some people may need platelet transfusions following treatment for cancer or as a result of a severe infection.
None of us like to think of something awful happening to us, or someone that we love. But if something awful does happen that means you or your loved one will need blood to save their life or aid their recovery, we would all like to know there are plentiful stocks available.
So let’s make 2015 a bloody good year by resolving to donate blood. It’s quick, easy, relatively painless – and can save lives. Visit the session finder to find out the next available opportunity near you, and other information you will need to know.