COVID-19 has caused many cancellations, but the need for blood donors remains as critical as ever.
According to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, the Sunshine Coast needs 200 to 250 new donors each month.
Just one blood donation can save up to three lives, while one in three Australians will need blood or blood products throughout their lifetime.
Belinda Smetioukh from Australian Red Cross Lifeblood says the nation records 29,000 blood donations a week – that’s 1.5 million donors per year.
Over the peak of COVID-19 restrictions, those figures dropped dramatically with the service recording about 800 cancellations a day, despite it being an essential service.
“We put the call out to all of our donors to remind them that donating blood is considered an essential service, and the response from Australians rolling up their sleeves was really great to see,” Ms Smetioukh says.
Now, with COVID-19 restrictions easing, Lifeblood is calling on eligible Australians to become blood donors as well as existing donors to honour their appointments, especially ahead of the traditionally challenging winter period.
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service physiotherapist Nicholas Brooke recently donated blood for the first time, and says he wishes he started donating sooner.
“I have always been meaning to start giving blood, but never got around to organising a donation… but it was so quick and easy to do,” Mr Brooke says.
“I downloaded the blood donor app in the waiting room and booked in for my next donation before leaving the clinic.”
While live-saving blood donations remain essential, the demand for plasma donations is also increasing.
New medical research has discovered convalescent plasma donations by people who have recovered from COVID-19 may help boost the immunity of patients still battling the disease.
Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that contains antibodies. Once someone has recovered from COVID-19, the virus antibodies stay in their plasma.
Lifeblood chief executive Shelly Park says, “The plasma we collect will be used to treat patients in clinical trials, both as a form of direct treatment and as a medication called COVID-19 Immunoglobulin, which may provide passive immunity against coronavirus infections.”
Convalescent plasma can be donated only by someone with a confirmed laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19, who has fully recovered from the virus and been symptom-free for at least 28 days.
Here on the Sunshine Coast, we have 14 convalescent plasma donors, who so far have made 26 donations.
Convalescent plasma is being trailed as a treatment for patients suffering from COVID-19 in a number of countries including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and China.
“Donating plasma is a simple, powerful act that could help a patient struggling to fight the disease. It is a real opportunity for people who have battled COVID-19 to become part of a potential solution,” Ms Park says.
“It’s important to note that safety is Lifeblood’s number one priority and there is no risk to donors or staff from this initiative.
“Our convalescent plasma donors will have to satisfy the same strict eligibility criteria as our other donors and the process of collecting convalescent plasma is the same as the existing plasma donation process.”
She says that Lifeblood donor centres are safe places to visit with strict sanitation protocols in place as well as social distancing rules.
You must be fit and well to donate. Despite the winter flu season fast approaching, there is hope the current social distancing rules will decrease the spread of cold and flu across the region, allowing more healthy Australians to be eligible to donate blood.
If you would like to find out more about how to donate blood, phone 131 495 or visit donateblood.com.au to book an appointment.
Additionally, if you have recovered from a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and believe you may be eligible to donate, call 131 495 and mention that you want to donate convalescent plasma.
The Lifeblood centres on the Sunshine Coast operating hours are:
Nambour Donor Centre
19 Nambour-Mapleton Road, Nambour
Monday and Friday, 7am-1pm
Tuesday and Thursday, 11.30am-7pm
Saturday, 7am – midday
Maroochydore Donor Centre
Level 1, 144 Horton Parade (corner Plaza Parade), Maroochydore
Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am-6pm
Wednesday and Friday, 7am-3pm (opens 9.30am every second Wednesday)