Every year on 14 June, countries around the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day (WBDD). We’re taking part in the international campaign «Missing Type» by Swiss Transfusion SRC. A, B, AB and 0 are the four main blood groups. If no blood of any of these types is available in case of an emergency, it gets critical. «It’s only noticed when it’s missing» is the motto of the campaign from Swiss Transfusion SRC to spread knowledge about blood donation. This campaign says thank you to all donors who make sure that no blood is missing when it’s needed. To keep up supplies over the summer months, new blood donors are needed.
We could all find ourselves in a situation where we rely on a blood donation.
In the following interview, our colleague Alex tells her personal story and why she is grateful that there are people who can and want to donate blood.
If you’d like to help, make an appointment for blood donation here (page in German).
Fancy some interesting facts about blood and blood donation? Check this out:
42.8% red blood cells
2.14% blood platelets
1.09% fat, sugar, salt
0.07% white blood cells
A healthy person of average weight has a blood volume of about eight percent of his body weight. For example, a person weighing about 70 kilograms has about five to six litres of blood. However, this also depends on age and gender.
Your blood group is identified by antibodies and antigens in the blood and classified in blood groups. Every human has one of these four main blood groups: A, B, AB or 0. The most common blood group in Switzerland is A. However, blood groups are not evenly distributed all over the world: Among the indigenous peoples of North and South America, blood group 0 is almost exclusively found; in Central Asia and Northern India as well as the surrounding countries, blood group B is most common.
Another distinguishing feature is the RhD factor. 85 percent of the Swiss population is RhD positive, which means that their blood contains the antigen D (protein). The remaining 15 percent don’t have the antigen D, so they are RhD negative.
Most people know the blood groups of the AB0 system. However, there are over 300 additional blood groups and new ones are discovered every year. Patients with chronic diseases who regularly need blood can develop antibodies against certain blood groups as a result of the donor blood. In this case, a blood transfusion without further investigation would lead to life-threatening side effects. Only suitable donors can give blood to these patients – donors that are difficult to find and are called up at national and international level. For this reason, there is a database with donors of very rare blood groups (Rare Donor File).
Your immune system produces antibodies against any blood antigens you don’t have in your own blood. This means people with type A blood create antibodies against B antigens. A person with type A blood receiving a transfusion of type B or AB blood would have an ABO incompatibility reaction. In an ABO incompatibility reaction, your immune system attacks the new blood cells and destroys them. Therefore, patients with blood group A can only receive blood from a donor with blood group A or 0. Blood type 0 has no antigens and therefore triggers no incompatibility reaction. The RhD is another decisive factor: RhD negative patients can only receive blood from RhD negative donors.
For blood transfusion, the blood groups as well as the RhD factor of donor and recipient have to be taken into account.
Thanks to thousands of donors, blood supply is normally guaranteed in Switzerland. Nevertheless, there are sometimes bottlenecks, for example during the summer holidays, as many donors are absent. In addition, blood preparations can only be kept for a limited time. Blood supply must therefore be carefully planned and adjusted to demand. This is no easy task: Not every blood group is needed as much at any given time and in every region. The number of blood donors is not the same everywhere either. For this reason, it is possible that donors may be needed particularly urgently or less urgently at a certain time of the year due to their blood type.
In recent years, hospitals have needed less and less blood, as a result of the increasingly conscious and restrained use of foreign blood. This is a positive development. At the same time, however, studies show that blood use could increase again in a few years. One reason for this is that people in Switzerland are getting older and older. Demographic ageing is crucial for blood supply in two respects: Firstly, older people receive significantly more blood transfusions and secondly, more and more blood donors are retiring due to age restrictions.
To replace an existing, loyal blood donor, it requires four new donors. This makes it all the more important to continue to spread knowledge about the importance of blood donation and, in particular, to motivate young people to donate blood.
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