7 Touching Facts About Blood Donation That’ll Make You Run To Your Nearest Giving Centre

blood donation facts

I was too young to donate blood before my Dad passed away from cancer. He honestly wouldn’t have been able to battle for six years straight without the kindness of strangers.

Folks who didn’t even know him as the father who would’ve done anything to make me smile, but still took the time, energy and blood to help him fight way past the timeline the doctors predicted. Admittedly, at 23, I took way too long to repay the favour. I was still grieving Dad. C’mon, gimme a break.

It wasn’t until someone brought up Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, that I realised it was time to roll up my sleeves. Your blood donation could mean families getting to laugh along with their loved ones that little bit longer. So I asked Ashleigh Hales, an employee at Lifeblood, about how much of a difference people can make with a blood donation.

Dad holding baby on the left, woman donating blood on the right
For you, Dad.

What are the biggest misconceptions about blood donation?

“One of the foremost misconceptions about blood donation is regarding donor eligibility,” explained Hales.

Whether you’ve recently gotten a tattoo or piercing, or are a low-iron girlie (I know I thought I didn’t have enough), it’s quick and easy to find out if you’re eligible to donate. There are currently 13 million Australians who are eligible to donate but don’t. Crazy.

Find out if you’re eligible, here.

Can you list three facts about blood donation that people might be surprised to hear?

Turns out that only three per cent of Australia’s population are donors. Let me repeat that, only three per cent of Australia’s population are donors. Admittedly, I was part of that 97% who aren’t, even when 33% of the population will need blood in their lifetime. That means 11 times more Aussies need to donate, and you can be a part of that movement.

What really hit home, is that 34% of all donated red cells are used for cancer and blood diseases. So statistically speaking, if I donate at least three times, I’ll repay what strangers did so my Dad stops haunting me. (Look, he knows maths isn’t my strongest point.)

“When you donate blood you not only find out your blood type, but also where the donation was used,” Hales explained. Not gonna lie, I was very excited when Lifeblood emailed me my blood type. And turns out I’m, drumroll, please…

How many donors have your blood type?
Heck yeah, gonna put O+ on my resume! Image Source: Lifeblood Australia

What sort of conditions do people needing blood donations face?

Did you know that your one donation has the potential to save up to three lives? Next time I’m feeling useless, I know what I’m going to be doing.

“The person receiving blood may have cancer, a difficult pregnancy, or a lifelong medical condition,” Hales went on. “Blood donations help people live the ‘normal’ life people often take for granted.”

Can you explain the difference between donating plasma and donating blood? Why is it important that we donate both?

I don’t know about you, but before this, I hadn’t even heard about plasma. And turns out, it’s orange? (Or yellow, depending on who you ask.)

Plasma bag

And you wouldn’t be the only one. Ashleigh told me that there are three types of blood donations: plasma, red blood cells and platelets.

For plasma, they extract the liquid and white cells from your blood and return what you need (the red blood cells and other components). Whereas for red blood cells, they take the whole thing. If you’re male, you can also donate platelets after donating plasma, which is taken from your blood and then just like plasma, they return it. Gosh, I’m so scientific.

Okay so now you know what you can donate, but how do they help?

According to Hales, plasma is “rich in proteins and antibodies and is used to create life-saving therapies and medications for patients.” While red blood cells are “vital for immediate medical emergencies or blood disorders.” Platelet donations are especially important, as they can help leukaemia patients stop their bleeding.

How long does it take to donate blood vs plasma?

Blood donations will only take ten minutes in the chair, whereas plasma will take 45 minutes with a quicker recovery. For a general guide, Hales recommends you “allocate one hour in the centre for a blood donation and 1.5 hours for a plasma donation.”

I would recommend bringing your headphones, a blankie for warmth (as you could get cold while donating), and download your favourite show, so you feel right at home.

Are there any touching stories you’ve encountered over the years that you can recall?

Even though all stories touch Hales, from donor to recipient, she told me about a dad whose daughter was battling leukaemia. Even though he was terrified of needles, he was brave for her. (BRB just gonna go cry, there must be onions around, gimme a sec.)

“This dad made a commitment to donate plasma every two weeks, synchronising his donations with his daughter’s transfusions, knowing that while it might not be his daughter who receives his plasma, someone’s child would.”

Hales said that donating gave him a distraction as well as a sense of purpose and hope during a challenging time. “Their story illustrates the profound impact of blood and plasma donation on both the recipients and their loved ones.”

What tips would you give to someone who is donating for the first time?

Okay, here’s an easy checklist before you donate for the first time:

  1. Drink eight glasses of fluid the day before if you’re a woman and ten glasses if you’re a man.
  2. Eat a hearty meal beforehand and have free snacks at the cafe afterwards – would recommend the sausage rolls.
  3. Take someone with you for support if you think you’ll be nervous or just want a distraction.
Dad holding baby eating food on the left and woman sipping milkshake on the right
I saved you free drinks and snacks at Lifeblood, don’t worry Dad.

What are you waiting for? Check out if you’re eligible to donate blood and help save lives, here.