The Health Services Authority Blood Bank is hoping to double the amount of blood it keeps in stock in the run up to the Christmas holidays. From the second week in December, it has been looking for more donors to come forward and give blood.
Blood that is to be used for transfusions can only be kept for 35 days, said Judith Clarke, laboratory manager at Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town. Therefore, by increasing the number of blood units in stock, the blood bank aims to have sufficient blood to see them through the festive period and into 2013.
“We try to have about 40 units of blood on a daily basis, but when the holidays are coming up we try to double that,” she said.
During the festive season an increase in traffic accidents and other emergencies requiring blood transfusions is anticipated, as well as fewer working days than normal, Ms Clarke said.
Although the blood bank has a register of more than 1,000 regular donors, as Christmas approaches additional donors are welcome. Some service clubs and local businesses organise members or employees to give blood, but individuals interested in giving blood can also contact the blood bank directly.
All blood collected is screened for transfusion transmissible infections, including HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HTLV and syphilis. However, potential donors are warned that certain viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis, may not show up in tests until a year after infection. If there is any chance an individual could have been infected in the preceding year, they are urged not to donate.
An extensive questionnaire must be completed prior to giving blood as a number of other factors – including one’s travel history, medication history and general state of health – may also exclude one from donating to the blood bank. For example, individuals who have travelled to malaria endemic countries within the past three years or had tattoos in the last year, people on certain medications and those who have received immunisations during the past two months will not be eligible to give blood.
Anyone who has spent three months or more in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996 cannot give blood, as they are considered to be at risk of incubating Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, the human form of Mad Cow Disease. Any individual who has spent five years or more in a BSE-risk European country will also not be able to give blood.
“We take a beating each year from the Europeans who live here who want to donate, but it’s a precaution we have to take,” Ms Clarke said. “If you go to the UK, kids of a certain age they do not give them blood collected in the UK. They take their own precautionary measures, too. It [CJD] has a long incubation period. Nobody can tell us yet, ‘well, you can cut off here’.”
What to expect
Providing one is a candidate for giving blood, one can expect to donate a pint at any one time. One can technically give blood once every 56 days, Ms Clarke said. But the blood bank tends to call their regular donors once every three months.
“Actually taking the blood takes about five minutes,” she said. “But there are forms to fill out and questionnaires to complete so the whole process takes 30 to 45 minutes.”
“We encourage people to come in with a full stomach, to drink plenty of fluids and to be in good health before donating blood,” Ms Clarke adds. “Afterward, you can continue with your day as normal, but avoid strenuous exercise, drink lots to replenish lost fluid and do not smoke for the next half hour.”
Ms Clarke urges members of the community to continue to give blood. “As the population grows we’re using more blood. Some of our donors are getting older or getting sick themselves, or they leave the island, so we’re always grateful for new donors. Nothing else can substitute for blood. We depend on donors.”
Anyone interested in giving blood can go to the blood bank, on the second floor of Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, in person, or they can call 244-2674 or 244-2669 to make an appointment.