Get on board the blood donation drive and give a pint before you head off on holiday.
Last year the Dubai Blood Donation Centre collected 42,824 units of blood at its base in Oud Metha its highest count in recent years. But as Dubai residents start to pack their bags for cooler climates, taking their precious blood with them, the DBDC is asking regular and first-timers to donate before they vacate.
The UAE’s hospitals, clinics and medical centres all require blood and blood components daily, with each one supplied by the DBDC. Dr Laila Al Shaer, director of the centre, says that while supplies of blood are good, and even exceeding targets, they don’t want to see the stocks deplete. ‘In summer we want people to come and donate before they leave for their holidays we don’t want to call on donors when there is a crisis, but we want giving blood to be a habit’ she explains. ‘We are in the era now where we don’t have or expect to have a blood shortage. We are now looking at topping up our stock for supplying blood in an emergency.’
Giving blood is an easy process, and the healthcare professionals will have you in and out in under an hour. On the day we visited, there were a handful of donors giving blood, but one of the assistants confirmed that during Ramadan the evening sessions are the busiest as Muslims can donate after iftar. Currently the centre sees up to 80 visitors each evening. Dr Al Shaer wants to maintain the centre’s flexibility. ‘Blood donation is a normal procedure which should happen all the time, we have to accommodate it in our lifestyle just like drinking water and taking exercise.’
Just because Dubai’s blood bank balance is looking healthier now, it doesn’t mean that regular donations aren’t needed, and donating one unit of blood (450ml) can help save up to five lives. Dr Al Shaer explains that bleeding is the cause of many complications. ‘When mums are in labour, for example, there may be excessive bleeding, we call this a massive transfusion, they can need up to ten units of blood which is a huge amount and you need the same blood group.’ Each donor gives just one unit at a time, and supply is pushed even more when rare blood types such as O negative are requested.
It’s not just blood that the centre needs, but the stuff that blood is comprised of. Blood is actually made up of plasma, red and white blood cells and platelets. The platelets are vital for clotting and people suffering with diseases such as thalassaemia and leukaemia often need more to heal. Using a system called apheresis, which separates the platelets from the blood, donors can also give these vital platelets as regularly as every fortnight. Didier Schneider, 46, from France was donating his platelets for the first time at the centre: ‘So many people don’t even know that you can donate platelets. I am very lucky that I have a high platelet count so I have the chance to give.’ As Didier watched his blood in the tubes he reveals the thinking behind his donation. ‘I’m happy to donate as long as I am able, and you never know, I may need it in the future’.
To give blood call the Dubai Blood Donation Centre for an appointment. Ramadan timings Sun-Thu 9am-2pm, and 9pm-2am, normal timing Sun-Thu 7am-7pm, Latifa Hospital, Oud Metha Road, www.dha.gov.ae
(04 219 3221).
We bust some myths about blood donation
Giving blood exposes you to risk of infectious disease.
False. Every time you donate a new needle and tubing is used and discarded. There is no risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV, AIDS or hepatitis from blood donating.
You can give blood just to get yourself tested for infections.
False. Although every unit of blood is screened and tested, you should never give blood just to get a blood test. This puts others at risk.
A woman can’t give blood if she’s on her period.
False. Menstruation shouldn’t affect a woman’s ability to donate, as long as her haemoglobin is high.
If you have lived in the UK in the 1990s you can’t give blood.
True. Due to the outbreak of ‘Mad Cow’s Disease’ people who lived in the UK at that time are often deferred from donation to protect against the pathogen being transferred to patients. This will be checked by the centre before you donate.