So you’ve donated blood, then what?

by Benice BurgerFebruary 15, 2018

Ever wondered what happens to blood after it’s been donated? If yes, then this is the article for you. Westside Urban News interviewed Regional Marketing Manager, Ivor Hobbs from the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) to help you understand a little more about where and what happens to your blood after it’s been donated.

The below interview is in Question and Answer (Q&A) format.

Q: What is the process after the donor donates blood? (Where does the blood go?)

Hobbs: The process is rather complex. After donation, the blood is transported in temperature controlled boxes to the closest testing and processing laboratory.

After processing and testing clear a unit of blood it is labelled and sent to the SANBS blood banks and emergency fridges in hospitals all over the 8 provinces in which we operate.

Should a patient require blood, the doctor will order it from the blood bank and administer the transfusion to the patient.

A large portion of the plasma is also sent to the National Bioproducts Institute in Durban where specialised products are made from the plasma such as clotting factors, rabies immunoglobulins and specialised eye drops.

Q: What happens to it there?

Hobbs: As soon as it reaches the lab the blood is processed into three different components, red blood cells, plasma and platelets.

These products can be given to people with different conditions, hence why we say that up to three lives can be saved with a single blood donation.

The units are put into a centrifuge where it is spun down. It then separates and a special machine removes the different components.

The processes are extremely complex and I would suggest that you come for a lab tour to get a better understanding of what happens.

The testing samples are sent to either our Johannesburg or Durban laboratories. At the labs, the samples are tested with state-of-the-art equipment.

Every single unit of blood is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis and blood group. The testing processes at SANBS are regarded as the safest in the world.

Q: Is it filtered before another can use it? (if so please elaborate)

Yes. In many instances the concentrated red blood cells are leucodepleted which is where white blood cells are removed from the blood thus removing the risk of an adverse reaction.

Q: How long does the bank keep it for?

It depends on the product. Red blood cells last 42 days, platelets 5 days and plasma can be frozen for up to a year.

Q: Why doesn’t South Africans get paid for donating their blood?

Legally we are not allowed to. According to the National Health Act, no one may receive any form of remuneration for blood, organs, tissue or gametes.

We follow the best practice of blood transfusion services worldwide and adhere to the recommendations voluntary non-remunerated blood donation from the World Health Organisation.

Should we start paying people for blood, we could have people presenting to donate for the wrong reasons which, in turn, will heighten the risk. Furthermore, it will increase the cost of blood and potentially put lives at risk.



About The Author
Benice Burger