Why do so few of us donate blood, asks News and Chronicle’s Clare

Our Clare during the donation process
Our Clare during the donation process

MOST of us would agree that the world that we live in sometimes seems to spin too quickly for our liking - with war, famine and man-made disasters a bit too tightly moored to the earth’s surface.

It makes us feel helpless to think of children continuing to starve in east Africa... and what about the tragedy visited on innocent bystanders and the blameless youngsters who wanted to make a better place in Norway?

It makes us feel useless when we can’t help, but why not consider a way in which you CAN make a difference?

For there is a simple act that won’t cost you a penny, takes approximately 30 minutes from start to finish and has the potential to extend the lifespan of another human being on this planet.

It involves giving blood. I should know – last week I joined dozens of Condorrat folk who had queued outside the Pollock Halls to do just that. The Blood Transfusion Service described the turnout as ‘‘absolutely amazing’’ with 72 locals showing up.

I experienced a boost when I was told that I was eligible to contribute, and an even greater high when I saw the sealed bag containing my own blood. To know that it can be used to help a patient in need was a great feeling.

Like most folk I loathe needles but I looked away and let seasoned professionals get on with it. All around me, locals were doing the same and in fact the hall was almost full. Yet this is highly deceiving. A whopping 95 per cent of those who are eligible to give blood just don’t do so. You have to ask: why is this?

Julie Morley, the service’s donor recruitment and publicity officer, said: “A lot of it comes down to fear of the unknown, I think a lot of people aren’t quite sure how to go about it or maybe think they can’t give because they don’t know what blood group they are when that wouldn’t matter at all. They don’t know for example how much blood would be needed but just three teaspoons would be enough to save the life of a premature baby for example.”

She added: “Often it’s not because they don’t want to do it. During the holiday periods like Christmas and Easter sometimes people find that they just can’t get along to give blood. During the very cold weather, it can prove to be impossible.”

“And of course there are times that we have to turn people away - if they had been in an area, say, where malaria is common.”’

When asked if there is one particular blood group that is particularly in demand, Julie stressed that the Blood Transfusion Service has a constant need for the “universal” grouping of O negative blood.

It’s estimated just seven per cent of the population have this blood type but as donors they are invaluable – this is the preferred type for accident victims and babies needing exchange transfusions and can be given to a person of any blood type. The service aims to recruit 65,000 new donors of all blood types this year. Why not consider joining them?

There will be the chance to do so next Thursday (August 25) in Kilsyth at the Garrell Vale CE Centre, from 2pm to 3.45pm and 5.15pm to 7.30pm.

Meanwhile the Blood Transfusion Service will return to Cumbernauld on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 4 and 5 in the Town Hall, Bron Way.