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Blood Donation – Our Human Responsibility

050615_Blood donation articleWe hear a lot of rhetoric about donating blood and why we should do it. I believe that we need to look deeper into this practice and understand it from a human perspective – and here I mean as a collective species, not just that we are humans.

In order to create the context, let’s first go back to when it all started…

The first recorded blood transfusion occurred in 1818¹, but lack of research and knowledge led to many transfusion failures. This all changed with the discovery of the different blood types, categorized into four groups: A, B, AB and O.

This discovery, originally credited to Karl Landsteiner in 1900, earning him a Nobel Prize, was later re-credited to Jan Jansky. Jansky’s classification remains in use today².

The basic principle of the ABO classification system is that antigens – in this case, sugars physically exposed on a person’s red blood cells – differ between individuals, and therefore a person will have blood of a certain classification and need blood of compatible classification during a transfusion.

The various components in blood, once separated through centrifugation, have differing shelf lives. Typically platelets last seven days, red blood cells up to 42 days (this can be extended if frozen) and plasma, when stored in a freezer, can last up to one year².

So, now that we have the history and basic premise of blood donation out of the way – let’s talk about why we should as humans, be donating blood.

With over 7 billion humans on the planet today and the constant daily distractions that consume our lives, it is little wonder that we have no time to focus on self-improvement let alone time to contemplate our place amongst our fellow humans. If we could just for a brief moment connect with the guy next door and hear his story, we would uncover a startling list of similarities; it would be the same for most of us: similar paths, similar stories – just with different characters. We are fundamentally connected as a species and it is this realization that will guide us on our journey.

Our greatest instinct is one of survival – at all costs, and we can use this connection that we do have to know that we are ‘one’ as a species, to come to the natural conclusion that helping our fellow man is in effect helping ourselves.

This high-browed philosophy being said, you might ask, “Where are you going with this?”

Well, what I am ultimately saying, in what may come across as rather wordy, is that it is required of us as humans to help others, regardless of who they may be or what their circumstances are and donating blood, to me, is probably one of the most selfless, unconditional acts of giving that one can participate in.

There are countless stories of people who have received a blood transfusion from donated blood, stories that will bring tears to your eyes – but as much as we relate and connect with other peoples stories, it doesn’t make us get up and take action as often as it should. It is time and time again only when those experiences are ‘close to home’ that we do something – that’s human nature, and only because I feel that we have forgotten our connection.

So, as we celebrate National Blood Donor month in June, I urge you, as part of the human species, to take some time and unconditionally donate some of your blood – you never know when you may need some in return…

Check out http://www.sanbs.org.za/ so you can find out where you can donate.


1: http://www.bloodcenters.org/blood-donation/blood-history/
2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_donation

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