Blood Donation Education: Especially Essential in a Dengue-Inflicted Country

Posted on April 14, 2013

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A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends in Manila, Philippines needed blood donors for a sick relative. Today, another friend needed blood donors for a friend inflicted with Dengue. According to the World Health Organization, Dengue is a disease transmitted through the bite of a specific mosquito that is infected with the virus. Dengue is more common in tropical countries, which is most likely the reason why the Philippines had 132,046 reported cases of Dengue from January to October of 2012, which is about 25% higher than the same time period in 2011. Complications of dengue can lead to bleeding and eventually death, which is why blood transfusions may be needed.

The prevalence of Dengue in the Philippines is the primary reason why I am gravely concerned about the lack of blood supply for transfusions in hospitals in the Philippines. I’ve heard about this problem in the past, but I didn’t think that the hospitals could reach zero supply. I thought that they asked patients and the patients’ relatives to search for blood donors only to replace however much blood the hospitals were going to give the patients. I found out through my friends that when hospitals ask for blood donors, they actually don’t have any (zero, nada, zilch) blood supply available to transfuse to the patients.

As someone who used to work at a blood center in the U.S., I have enough knowledge to know that regular blood donors are just as essential to patients needing blood transfusions as are effective, seamless, and safe blood acquisition processes. It is understandable if people have health, travel, or other issues that  exclude them from donating, but some of the reasons I’ve heard about why many people don’t donate include fear of how they’d feel during or after donating, fear of acquiring diseases, and lack of awareness regarding the true need for donor blood. These concerns seem like they could definitely be addressed through education and information.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind before, during, and/or after donating:

  • ask as many questions as you have about the process, safety, precautions, etc. and educate yourself
  • hydrate and eat well before donating
  • get enough sleep the night before, and no strenuous activities within 24hrs of donating
  • tell the phlebotomist about any issues you had during past donations
  • needles should only be used once and donation stations should be clean, so make sure to speak-up if you notice something that concerns you
  • answer questions honestly (for the patient’s safety and for yours, too)
  • take someone with you when you donate, especially if it’s your first time
  • accompany a family member or friend who regularly donates blood to their next blood donation so you can get a glimpse of the process
  • find out what blood type is needed most by local hospitals and blood banks, and you can turn your blood donation experience into a group experience by inviting other family members and friends

These are just some tips to help potential donors learn more about blood donation and to hopefully get them comfortable enough to donate blood, especially in a country like the Philippines where there is an imbalance in supply and demand. The American Red Cross has great information for first-time donors or for donors who haven’t donated in a while and would like to refresh their knowledge about blood donation. Most of the tips found on there are universal for donors in any country. Find your country’s Red Cross chapter for more information regarding blood donation.

The video below is from the American Red Cross website, and it gives a summary about the donation process. Some things you’ll see on the video may only apply to the U.S., but I think it still gives a great overview of the process, even to just at least get more people (How about you?) asking questions and educating themselves.

Have you ever donated blood? How was it and what tips can you share with others? If you haven’t yet, why? Please share your thoughts!