This holiday season people are being called to give a potentially lifesaving gift – blood. The New Zealand Blood Service says fewer donors typically roll up their sleeves during December and January, despite it being the season of goodwill.
“There’s a real need for blood and plasma over the holiday period because the need for blood doesn’t go away but people all go away on holiday,” spokeswoman Asuka Burge said.
“We’re really wanting people to book appointments, either before they go away, after they come back, or to find a blood drive while they’re on holiday. We’re just asking people to take that hour over summer to donate.”
Burge said every year about 29,000 people needed blood or plasma.
“Blood only lasts 35 days, so we need to make sure there’s a steady supply. So all our blood drives are continuing through the summer because we need the blood.”
While it may not be the first thing people think of when they plan rest and relaxation activities, Burge said blood donation was worth putting on the list.
In a world where waiting rooms provide one of the only places to catch 10 minutes break with no other demands jockeying for your time, blood donation meant you could take time out with a podcast or magazine, and walk away knowing you had done the world some good, she said.
Donating blood takes about an hour from start to finish, with only about 10 minutes of that the actual blood draw.
“In all of our donor centres we’ve got free WiFi, so we really encourage people to bring their devices in, they can sit there on their phones, or just bring a book or magazine to read, and have a bit of me time. At some of our sites we’ve got TVs as well,” Burge said.
“We just encourage people to come and put their feet up, do an amazing life-saving donation, and know that you’re actually helping to save lives.”
Plasma needs continuing to increase, donor criteria relaxed
Demand for blood plasma had continued steeply, and the service needs to find another 6000 donors to meet the aim to collect more than 100,000 donations in 2021, Burge said.
“Plasma is the liquid part of the blood, we call it liquid gold because it has a very gold colour – and it’s where the antibodies in your blood are, so the products we can make from the plasma actually give those antibodies to people who need it, people with immune disorders, who can’t make the antibodies themselves.
“The need for plasma donations is now equal to the need for regular blood donations, the demand has grown hugely, about 45 percent in the last four years.”
The service had not been able to meet the full demand for plasma this year, so some plasma products have had to be imported from overseas.
But Burge said the criteria to be a plasma donor had been relaxed to help recruit more donors, with the aim for the country’s needs to be met from within New Zealand.
“People who may have been told in the past that they don’t meet the criteria should check again. The height and weight criteria has changed, and we’ve also removed the requirement for someone to have already given a blood donation before.
“So you can come and donate plasma as your first donation.”
When donating plasma the concept is essentially the same as donating blood, Burge said, but it takes longer.
Donors should allow about 90 minutes for the visit, during which the actual fluid draw takes about 60 minutes.
“It’s one needle in the arm, there’s a machine that’s beside your bed, and it takes your blood out and spins it in a centrifuge, takes your plasma, and returns your red blood cells to you.
“But a lot of donors say they feel really good after it, because they get their red cells back, which means you can also give plasma more often – up to every two weeks if you wanted, compared to three months between donations for a regular blood donation.
“Basically you’re giving somebody else the ability to fight off infections, and giving them life – so we say it’s life-giving, it’s an amazing way to help other people.”
Burge said New Zealand Blood Service donor centres are running through summer in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with mobile blood drives still operating in the regions too.
Full details about where and when to donate are on the Service’s website: nzblood.co.nz.