‘Tis the season to be jolly and sign up to give blood, says the Health Services Authority’s Blood Bank, as Christmas is the time of year when its blood supply runs low.
With the festivities often come traffic accidents and increased domestic accidents, which means extra blood will be needed, said Judith Clarke, laboratory manager at the Cayman Islands Blood Bank.
“There tends to be more accidents and more need for blood during that period …. It’s the festive season and we tend to overdo things at that time,” she said.
In the case of an emergency, Ms. Clarke said people are good at responding with donations, but sometimes it can still be too late for the patient in need of a transfusion.
For Kerry and Reggie Nixon, Christmas is a time for family, friends – and for donating blood.
“We think it’s the right thing to do, helping somebody. You never know, it might be one of your own family members, or you yourself who ends up needing it,” said Mrs. Nixon.
Mr. Nixon, who has been donating blood for more than 30 years, inspired his wife to start donating in 1996. Among the things the couple share is their blood type, both are O positive, which is the most common blood type.
“Blood is one of God’s gifts of life, so if you can help save a life, you’ve really done something, I think,” said Mr. Nixon.
“Doing things together as a team keeps you together, and this is one of the things we do together on a regular basis,” said Mrs. Nixon.
Although the blood bank has a register of 1,080 blood donors, more donors are always welcome. During the holidays, not only is there an increase in demand for blood, there are also fewer donors.
“Holidays means lots of donors go on vacation; there’s not enough of them during Christmas, hence the need to start donating from now,” Ms. Clarke said.
Although O negative blood is preferred, as it is the universal blood type that can be used on any patient, Ms. Clarke welcomes all blood types.
“It doesn’t matter what type they are, we want them to come. We need all types,” she said.
There are currently 60 O negative blood donors registered, or only about 6.5 percent of the islands’ blood donor list.
Ms. Clarke is appealing to church members and service clubs to rally teams to donate blood.
“We need a lot more O negative donors,” she said. “We need a minimum of six bags of O negative blood, but the pool is so small, there are times where we are unable to meet that six because there are no more donors to call, hence the need to recruit more donors.”
For those who have never donated blood, the experience is painless and quick.
“It’s simple. It’s just a little prick, but you feel good at the end of the day knowing that you’re helping someone to stay alive, or improving their quality of life,” said Ms. Clarke.
Blood only lasts at the blood bank for 35 days, so the blood bank is constantly looking for new donors. “We’re aiming to recruit between 100 to 200 donors,” said Ms. Clarke.
Not everyone is eligible to donate blood, though, for a variety of reasons.
Anyone who has visited or lived in the U.K. from 1980 to 1996 for a cumulative period of three months or more cannot give blood because of the possibility of transmitting variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease, the human version of mad cow disease. The same rules apply to anyone who has spent five years or more from 1980 to present in Europe.
Also, anyone who has received a blood transfusion in the U.K. or France since 1980 is ineligible to give blood, as are people who are HIV-positive, have hepatitis or are nursing or pregnant.
Any companies or individuals who want to find out more about donating blood can email [email protected] or call the Cayman Islands Blood Bank at 244-2674.