Benefits of blood donation, by experts

Health

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Despite many misconceptions surrounding blood donation, medics say there are numerous health benefits for voluntary donors beyond the joy of saving lives, reports Associate Editor ADEKUNLE YUSUF. The Ayedeye family still bear the scars of the untimely death of their wife and mother despite the passage of time. With her pregnancy less than eight months old, Fatimah found it amiss that blood oozed from her private part, prompting her to alert her family members for help. She was rushed to the General Hospital in Epe, Lagos, where a caesarean operation was recommended. However, after the surgery, she was in dire need of transfusion, but blood was impossible to get. She died, though her baby, a girl, survived. That was three years ago. Deaths arising from absence or inability to afford life-saving transfusions are regular in Nigeria, being one of the countries with the lowest blood donation rates. As far as medical doctors are concerned, deaths like Fatimah’s are avoidable, if the country meets her prescribed blood transfusion requirement. With the fourth-highest maternal mortality rate in the world, the giant of Africa accounts for 19 per cent of all maternal deaths globally. Postpartum haemorrhage (or loss of too much blood following birth) is fingered as the leading cause of such deaths in a country where there is no equitable access to safe blood and blood products. As explained by experts in transfusiology or transfusion medicine, one blood donation may indeed save up to three lives. Almost every second, someone is in need of blood or may depend on lifesaving transfusions to remain alive. This explains why, in the medical parlance, blood donors are regarded as altruists because their heroic donations help patients of all ages: accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those battling cancer. Donated blood can also help in managing patients suffering from bleeding disorders, chronic anemia associated with cancer, sickle cell anemia, and other hereditary blood abnormalities. Whenever a patient receives blood, doctors say the public should know that it was given in advance by a donor – either voluntary or paid for. Therefore, there’s no substitute for blood, since it cannot be manufactured; people are the only source of getting it. As the donor savours the satisfaction that comes with giving blood, which saves the life of fellow human beings who are in need, the giver too gets hugely compensated in the process. A mini-health examination that includes a checklist for diseases related to blood pressure and infections is often conducted before collecting blood. This is why people with AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases are never allowed to donate blood. Similarly, pregnant women and other intending donors who have taken vaccinations or have undergone surgery are advised to consult a medical professional before doing so. Before every blood donation, donors are mandated to get their iron (haemoglobin) level checked; blood pressure and pulse rate are also taken. This will be of great benefit, as any potential “red flags” will be discovered, says Dr. Saheed Bello, senior registrar, Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital (LAUTH). Because hospitals, clinics and blood banks subject every intended blood donor to several medical tests free, it sometimes helps the donor to know his or her health status with a view to doing something about it. In the hospital laboratories and blood banks, the rule of thumb is that every donor must pass through a free prior health screening plus mini-blood test, including an HB level test as well as a blood pressure and body check. Many donors’ lives have been saved from discovering their medical status during tests before being cleared for blood donation, he said. But getting to know one’s health status is not the only benefit blood donors get from giving their blood. Regular donation of one’s blood helps in advancing the donor’s heart health in many ways. Committed blood donors regularly eliminate excess iron. By reducing iron in the blood cells, blood donation can also reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. By reducing iron in the blood cells, blood donation can also reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Studies have found that regular blood donors have fewer heart attacks and strokes when they donated blood every six months. Bello said donating blood improves the  cardiovascular health of the donor because increasing level of iron in the blood raises the chance of heart disease. Because regular donation of blood helps to lower the amount of iron in the blood, especially in males, experts explain that this can reduce the chance of heart attack by 88 per cent; just as regular blood donation can lower the risk of severe cardiovascular events such as stroke by as high as 33 per cent. Donating blood also aids new red blood cells production, a boon to the donor. According to Prof Sulaiman Akanmu, a consultant haematologist and head of Heam...

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