It isn’t just any blood you can donate to anybody. There is a proper science behind it. Knowing your blood group type is essential if you wish to donate your blood to the one who needs it.
Many aspects define us as a person – our personality, our emotional quotient, our looks, the list is never-ending. These are attributed to the genes we get from our parents and the influence of the environment over it. Yet, some aspects remain unchanged in a person throughout their lifespan. One of which is the Blood Group type we have. Nowadays, offices, colleges, the workplace, and even pre-primary schools have understood the importance of knowing the blood group type.
The Right And Wrong About Blood Groups
To dispel a few misconceptions regarding blood donation, I recall a conversation I had with a few of my friends a few days back on WhatsApp.
I got up one fine morning and saw that my mobile had a message on WhatsApp – “A request to everyone. A patient in a hospital is undergoing a major surgery today and needs B+ve blood. He needs four units of blood immediately. If anyone is B+ve, please contact Mr. Patil on the following number – 0123456789!” posted by Nishant.
To my surprise, I saw that Suhas was willing to donate blood to this patient but was O+ve. He pointed out he was ready to donate one unit of blood but had a different blood group. Ketki, Vivaan, and Rohan on the WhatsApp group immediately pointed out that he cannot do it as he has a different blood group!
The Science Behind Blood Groups
Did they really understand the science behind blood groups? Who can donate blood to whom, when, and how much? Is it, not our duty to understand these things before actually passing judgment over something so important and crucial to life?
Blood groups are one of the easiest things to understand in human biology. Without going too deep into the genetics of how the blood group of a person is decided, I took up the task to spread a bit of information and knowledge about blood groups.
Who Can Donate Blood?
I asked Nishant first, “Hey, does this person need only B+ve blood group?”
Nishant, always up to date with all his knowledge and information, said, “No ma’am, it hasn’t been specified that the donor has to have a specific blood type. I remember reading somewhere that we can help out by donating any other blood group as well, right?”
As always, impressed by Nishant, I replied, “ Yes, you are right. Though it is important that we first find out what type of blood donation does this person need.”
Different Types Of Blood Donation
To which Suhas said, “Type of blood donation? What does that mean?”
Smiling, I realized I had stirred the curiosity of people, and I replied, “The most common type is what we usually do – Whole Blood Donation.” Here, usually, 1 pint of complete blood is donated, which can be done every 56 days. This blood is later separated into the different components of the blood – plasma, platelets, and red blood cells. These components are then individually transfused to the patients based on their requirements. A single pint of blood donated may be useful for more than one patient.
Pooja, a blood transfusion expert with a renowned blood bank, wrote, “Blood banks are always looking for whole blood donations, especially from AB blood groups as they are the rarest. Only 3% of the population has an AB blood group, and AB plasma can be given to any patient irrespective of their blood group. More than 40% of the population has an O+ve blood group, becoming the most common blood type. The people with this blood group are encouraged to donate as much as possible (whole blood donation every 3 months and platelets and plasma donation in between).”
She further added, “Almost 38% of the total population is A blood group, and so is always in high demand – be it whole blood, plasma, or platelets. The next most common blood type is B (almost 10% of the population), and blood type B plasma donations are beneficial in trauma cases, burn patients and some blood diseases.”
Blood Group Compatibility
Yashpal, who had always been good at making charts and graphs, quickly summarized the information about blood group compatibility with respect to donations given by Pooja in a table.
Adding on to the information given by Pooja, Yashpal included another table with compatible plasma blood types, i.e., which blood type can be donated.
- O blood type can receive plasma from O, A, B, AB
- A blood type can receive plasma from A, AB
- B blood type can receive plasma from B, AB
- O Blood type can receive plasma from AB
What Is Apheresis?
Jumping into the conversation again, Nishant asked, “So, there are other types of blood donations as well, apart from Whole Blood Donation?”
Pooja had taken the lead in the discussion as this was her domain. She answered, “Apart from Whole Blood Donation, there is something called Apheresis or Automated Donation. It is a specialized procedure where the donor can donate specific blood components, and the remaining blood is returned to the donor through a machine. Most automated donations consist of a combination of platelets, RBCs, and plasma (usually 2 of these 3 components). More amount of blood can be donated through this process.
There are different types of apheresis.
1. Plasma Apheresis
Plasma is the liquid part of the blood. Only plasma is donated, which can be used to replace blood clotting factors, large volume transfusions, in trauma patients, etc.
2. Platelets Apheresis
It is a specialized donation of only platelets, for patients on cancer treatment, after heart surgeries, after massive bleeding, etc.
3. Red Blood Cell Apheresis
Here, only RBCs are collected. This requires the donor to clear special criteria like high hemoglobin with a blood type of O.
It is highly specialized and is done only if a hematologist prescribes it. It collects the White Blood cells and cannot be stored and thus has to be used immediately. It is useful for poor bone marrow function, after chemotherapy, in blood disorders, or after organ transplantation. Particular medicines are given, and precautions must be taken for the donor.
5. Source Plasma
Plasma from different donors is pooled together, and then different protein types are separated from it. E.g., albumin concentrate, clotting factor concentrates, antithrombin, fibrinogen concentrates, gamma globulin concentrates, etc.
Rohan thoughtfully said, “There is so much to learn and understand about blood donation. Pooja, can you tell us more about the precautions needed for a donor before we go ahead with blood donation?”
Realizing that it was 11.30 pm already, we decided to continue this discussion the next day with a fresh mind. As I went off to sleep, I realized that I had learned so much in just 1 hour by simply discussing it with different people. We all try and donate blood, but we need to understand the why, how, and when of the procedure.
Donating Blood – Need Of The Day!
The requirement of blood is staggeringly high at 5 crore units yearly in our country, of which only about 2.5 crore units are met. On average, India needs 38,000 blood donations each day – every 2 seconds, someone needs a blood transfusion. NGO’s and Social media campaigns have played a significant role by creating awareness regarding blood donation and holding blood donation camps frequently.
“It is easy to be a hero, to save a life. We can all do it. Donate your blood to make a difference.”