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Give the gift of life this Christmas by donating blood

09 December, 2015
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We all know that Christmas is a time of giving, and as we slip into the long-awaited season of jolly Christmas ads, pretty decorative lights and crazy parties, we’re reminded of the various ways we can help others over the festive period.

Dr. Seuss once wrote, “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

It’s a message that people are listening to, and each year, more people are turning away from store-bought kindness and endless hours of shopping and are instead branching out to make a difference to someone’s life in a more meaningful way.

Some Christmas gifts people are giving:

  • Delivering cookies to their local servicemen, such as police, fire and hospital staff.
  • Giving gifts to ‘giving trees’ in shopping centres
  • Donating some time, such as a volunteering at a nursing home to help spread a little Christmas cheer.
  • Sending Christmas cards to military personnel overseas.
  • Delivering baked goods to neighbours.
  • Giving pantry items to families in need.
  • Donating time to charity organisations
  • Clearing out old toys and clothes to give to those less fortunate.

But one area that is sometimes overlooked at this time of year, is the giving of blood.

Giving blood at Christmas

Christmas is a busy time that’s often dedicated to spending time with loved ones. With everyone being busy, at this time of year, one in five blood donation appointments are cancelled. According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, in 2012, an extra 25,000 blood donations over the Christmas and New Year period were needed to bolster supplies for cancer patients, road trauma victims, and people undergoing emergency surgery.

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It’s the same story every year, and to try to combat the problem the Red Cross launched The Blood Blitz campaign in 2012, designed to fill appointments at a time when regular donors are likely to take a holiday. Still, out of 600,000 blood donors capable of giving blood, just 300 were booked in on Christmas Eve and a large percentage of those cancelled.

The need for blood never takes a break. People who require blood transfusions, require them at all times of the year. What’s more, platelets, for example, only have a shelf life of five days. When people don’t give blood over the Christmas period, it makes access to platelets difficult for those in need.

Determined to get Australians giving blood, in 2014 the Red Cross launched the Secret Santa Campaign. The campaign was designed to encourage Australians to anonymously donate the gift of blood instead of a Secret Santa gift. But still, just days before Christmas, the Red Cross still needed 6,000 blood donors to keep up with demand.

The message simply isn’t getting through.

What you can do

There are several things you can do to promote the gift of giving blood this Christmas between December 24th and January 4th. This includes:

Learning more about how blood is used

Knowing how your blood affects others is key in making sure you meet your scheduled appointments. The majority of donated blood goes to people with cancer, as well as people who have suffered traumatic accidents, burns or those undergoing surgery. Red cells from your donated blood are used in:

  • Cancer and blood diseases (34%)
  • Anaemia (19%)
  • Surgical patients including open heart surgery and burns (18%)
  • Heart, stomach and kidney disease (13%)
  • Orthopaedic patients including fractures and joint replacements (10%)
  • Obstetrics, including pregnant women, new mothers and young children (4%)
  • Trauma, including road accidents (2%)
Your platelet donation helps patients with non-functioning or low platelet counts who are bleeding or at high risk of bleeding by ensuring the blood can clot when needed. This may occur during high dose chemotherapy, bone marrow transplantation, major surgery, liver disease or severe trauma.

Plasma is possibly the most crucial, being the most versatile component of your blood. Not only does plasma help prevent bleeding, it makes up to 18 life-saving products.

Understand shelf life

shutterstock_119372953All blood components have a short shelf life, creating the need for a constant blood supply. When periods are slow, it can be hard to catch up with demand. Platelets last up to 5 days, red cells for up to 42 days, and plasma up to one year.

Gather friends

If you plan on giving blood between Christmas and New Year, why not encourage the whole family or a group of friends or colleagues to join you? The more people giving blood, the better, and by doing something meaningful with your time together your bond can grow even stronger.

Find a local service centre

Just because you’re away visiting family and friends doesn’t mean you can’t find one hour to give blood. The Red Cross offers a great online tool for finding your nearest blood donor centre or mobile unit.

Find out if you’re eligible to give blood

If you’re not sure whether or not you are eligible to give blood, take the quiz on the Red Cross Blood Service website. However, there are additional criteria regarding your eligibility, so if you’re still unsure give the Red Cross a call on 13 14 95 to find out more.

Spread the word

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Be it via email, social media or the water cooler in the office staff room, spread the word that more blood is needed between Christmas and New Year. Sharing the message has potential to better hundreds of lives.

Make an appointment

Appointments can be booked three or more days in advance. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar so you don’t forget!

Remember you’re saving lives

There’s no better gift at Christmas than the gift of life. If you’re able to give blood, make a conscious point of giving blood between the 24th December and the 4th January. Your gift could make a world of difference for someone in need.

All information in this article is intended for general information purposes only. Information should not be considered medical advice and is in no way intended to replace a consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.

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