...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Red is the color of the New Year

I too wonder what took me so long, but finally, I signed myself up as a municipal blood donor last week. The first step was a blood test. Since I haven't heard from the hospital yet since then, I assume that I had passed the blood donor criteria: they test for blood type and levels of hemoglobin, and make sure that donors don't have hepatitis, syphilis, HIV and HTLV. Now I'm just waiting for a letter when I can give my first regular donation.

The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) estimates that yearly, about 100,000 persons in Sweden need blood transfusions. It could be a case of an accident, a difficult childbirth, an operation, or chronic illness. It is estimated that about a third of all transfusions directly help save lives in acute situations. In short, a lot of people need blood. And for this, you can trust the Swedes to have an organized solution for the demand.

Basically, when you sign up as a blood donor, you agree to do it on a regular basis – up to three times a year for women and four times a year for men, granting that you are healthy at the time of donation and have read and signed a health declaration. This system is not unique for Sweden, but something that I am new to. Blood donations in developing countries are far from this systematic. In the Philippines, information about blood donation is scant outside of universities where the Red Cross can have week-long blood drives. Otherwise, relatives of people who badly need transfusions have to rally up their friends and colleagues to donate blood at the hospital in question, on a one-time basis, to replace the blood in the hospital bank. I can imagine that this system is taxing on relatives and that the blood supply is low. If there is an organized donation system and there is easily available and clear information, not only can more people be recruited (there were more than 400,000 regular blood donors in Sweden in 2009), but hospitals can also control which blood groups are running low in the municipal blood bank, and mobilize the donors with that blood group.

So I would like to make a case for seeking information yourself, if you're interested in becoming a blood or organ donor wherever you are. When it's time for me to donate my first contribution – the blood center will send me an e-mail – it would be my first time ever to donate blood. What partly hindered me before was a cluelessness, and perhaps also laziness to get information. I didn't know weather I could donate blood at all since I have had dengue fever as a child, but apparently, this was a false thought. Even if you've had tropical diseases, this does not automatically mean you're not qualified for donation. As with tattooing, piercing, etc., it just depends when you've had it. With tropical diseases, you just have to wait 6 months before donating. If you're sick, you have to wait until you're well for two whole weeks. If you've had a vaccine, a tattoo, acupuncture, or went to the dentist, you have to wait one or a few days. As long as you're between 18 and 60 years old, pass the blood test making sure that you don't have any seriously transmittable diseases, and granted that you're not anemic yourself, you can, at least some times of the year, donate blood. I also found that the information / interview session I had, which was obligatory for new donors in this Swedish system, was very informative and answered all the questions I wanted to know about blood donation, including how I should take care of myself – with regards to diet, drink and activities – before and after the donation.

An organized blood donation system also has a solution for laziness. If you can't come to the blood donation centers at the hospitals for some reason (like having no car), the blood donation centers will come to your area. There's a schedule for so-called Blood Busses, which you can see in the Swedish site, geblod.nu (literally "giveblod.now"). The bus is where I signed up to be a donor and where I had a blood test.

It's a kind of New Year's resolution of sorts. For all my stalling – and as with all resolutions – it's actually not that hard to do when you get to it.

P.S. Added 7 February 2011. I was playing with the blog layout and found out that at least one of the drop down menus had a wrong link to it (October 2010 became September 2010, so there were two September archives). I've corrected it now, but if you guys see anything else wrong, leave me a message (Note, there is no November 2010 archive). I'm trying to fix my layout to make it more user- and navigation-friendly. But it may take some time :-)


Blogger Blog of Ice said...

Only 4 times a year for men...
In SA you can give 500ml up to 6 times a year. But I will try to sign up here also, if they take blood from South Africans.

8:06 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Sure they do! Aside from the weight, age, health and hemoglobin criteria, you just have to have a Swedish personal number and be able to read and talk in Swedish (for the health declaration and interview). Great that you'll also try to sign up!

8:12 PM

Blogger OhioGirl said...

Wow I really respect you doing that - thank you! Sounds really complicated, I might need to figure out a simpler way of doing my part :-)

8:08 PM

Anonymous helloise said...

joy! may i suggest you check out wordpress and consider switching? it's different from the blogspot interface but all in all it's much easier to design and organise your blog. also, they have better templates (na free pa). :)

12:26 PM


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