Red blood cells give blood its colour and makes up for 40% of its volume. The main function of RBCs is to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the cells. They have a shelf life of 42 days when they are stored in refrigeration. Transfusions of red blood cells are used to treat people with severe anemia, those who experience severe bleeding (such as accident victims) and those whose red blood cells do not function adequately.
Plasma is the straw coloured liquid that makes up the rest of the blood. It contains very important nutrients and clotting factors that are vital to a person’s health. Three litres out of the five litres of blood in an average adult’s body is made up of plasma, which can be divided into 17 different products. It can be stored frozen for up to 12 months and can assist patients with life-threatening conditions and haemophilia.
Platelets assist in the blood clotting process. They are tiny fragmented cells that prevent blood loss by covering up tears in blood vessels. They can only last up to 5 days and so it is vital that they are donated frequently. Platelets are primarily used to treat cancer patients; diseases such as leukemia and medical treatments such as chemotherapy lower platelet counts and this can cause spontaneous bleeding which is dangerous and possibly fatal (if it occurs in the brain).
Although everyone has the same components in their blood, the presence of A and B antigens (substances that can trigger immune responses) decides what blood type a person has. Knowing your blood type is vital, not only in case of emergencies, but also because it helps determine which type of donation is the best use of your blood.
Blood has only the A antigen. The need for type A whole blood and plasma/platelets is always high, and so it is useful to donate as often as possible.
Blood has only the B antigen. The most useful component in type B blood is the plasma, as it can go towards helping burn victims and people with severe diseases.
Blood has both A and B antigens. AB plasma can be given to any patient, regardless of blood type, and is always in high demand.
Blood has neither A nor B antigens. People with O positive/negative are most common and so all donations are valuable.
Before you donate:
• Eat lots of salty or savoury food in the 12 hours before the donation.
• Drink at least three glasses of water in the 3 hours before donating.
• Keep identification and any obligatory forms ready; suitable ID includes your full name, date of birth, a photo, and your signature.
On the day:
• Make sure you have at least 60 minutes free for the whole blood donation process; this includes preparation, donation, and resting time.
• If you are donating plasma or platelets, the donation itself takes 45 minutes so the whole process can take up to 1.5 hours.
• Don’t hesitate to ask the nurses any question have concerns or experience discomforts.
• Immediately after donation, you should rest for 2-5 minutes on the chair itself.
•Replenish yourself with water/fruit juice and salty food; many blood donation centres have accessible refreshment areas.
• Drink at least three full glasses of water in the 6 hours after donation.
• Avoid strenuous exercise such as jogging, going to the gym, or biking.
• Contact the blood donation centre if you feel at all unwell.
• Make your next appointment; whole blood donors can donate every 12 weeks and plasma/platelet donors can donate every 2-3 weeks.
There are various blood donation centres around the country, it’s best to find the one closest to you so that you can access it if they call with an emergency.
Abu Dhabi Blood Bank Center
Tel: 02 6656508
Blood Bank – Zayed Miltary Hospital
Tel: 02 4055243
Blood Bank – Al Wasl Hospital
Tel: 04 2193221
Blood Bank – Al Baraha Hospital
Tel: 04 2731451
Sharjah Blood Transfuion and Research Center
Tel: 06 5582111