Romanians do not usually donate blood due to lack of time or because they won’t take the trouble. Very few know that 450 ml of blood can save three human lives.
“I have donated blood so far, but I am not as constant as I would like to be, due to lack of time”, said Ștefan Chelaru, 37, during a blood donating event, organized by Asociația React, at the central headquarters of the company Avon Cosmetics România, in Bucharest.
Two of the most important reasons for which Romanians do not donate or rarely donate blood are the lack of time and the fear of hospitals or needles.
Romania has over 480,000 active blood donors, the equivalent of about 2.4% of the country population, according to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization. In countries such as Austria or France, over 50% of the adult population donates blood. One of the explanations for the low number of Romanian donors is the lack of adequate education. “Donating blood is a behaviour that needs to be instilled in people; you don’t just wake up and say you want to donate blood. It needs to be encouraged since childhood and it has a strong connection to empathy and volunteering. It also has to do with a learned behavior and a certain level of awareness regarding the need”, said Andreea Câtu, 38, who donated blood for the first-time.
Romanians can donate blood at the county transfusion centers, at the Blood Transfusion Center of Bucharest and at the five mobile units in the country (Bucharest, Craiova, Târgu-Mureș, Oradea and Iași), purchased in 2009 by the Ministry of Health. Before donating, those who are willing to give other people 450 milliliters of their blood, must go through a screening stage. Thus, doctors make sure that blood sampling does not hurt either the donor or the recipient. The actual process of blood donation is carried out within 15 minutes.
During one donation session, 450-500ml of blood is collected
Men can donate blood five times a year. Women only three times
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Blood mobile donation can be done either in the mobile unit, which large scale car, with special partitioning and equipment, or at the headquarters of a company, institution or NGO which should lay at the disposal of the organizers a corresponding space. The equipment and the necessary tools for blood collection in the mobile unit are brought by medical personnel from transfusion centers. The advantage of blood donation at the headquarters of companies or public institutions is that the process unfolds a lot quicker and easier for the donors.
“We have been organising sessions of mobile donations since 2008, and our experience so far shows that Romanians want to donate blood. However, it is a lot easier for people in companies or public institutions to have the mobile center come to them so that it only takes one hours in comparison to, say, several hours if they were to go to a fixed center”, declared Andreea Rotaru, Communication Manager at Asociația React. The NGO organises the programme “O șansă pentru viață” (A chance for life), in collaboration with the Vodafone Foundation, which aims at informing the public about the real need for sanguine products for transfusion centers in hospitals and encourages people to donate blood regularly and voluntarily.
“I am afraid of needles and I have been afraid to donate so far, but I plucked up the courage for today, taking advantage of the fact that the donation was done at work and I did not have to go all the way to the center”, said Cornelia Popescu, 27.
Romanians donate blood mainly because they want to help. “The reasons which determine you to donate blood do not have to be complex. You just have to want to help. I want to help because it is only human to want to help”, explained Andreea Câtu.
Moreover, Romanians are motivated to donate blood after listening to the radio, watching television or reading in the newspapers that there is a real need for blood at a national level. “I came to donate because I understood that there are no more blood supplies”, said Ioana Gavrilă, 37.
The last campaign carried out by authorities for encouraging Romanians to donate blood voluntarily, took place on 19th August. “In summer months, during holidays and agricultural work, the system is faced with frequent diminishing of the level of blood collection, with 20-25% less visitors than the average at the transfusion centers. On the other hand, during the same period, there is an increased demand, due to numerous car accidents or planned operations. As a consequence, there is an imbalance between the demand and the available blood reserves”, declared Nicolae Bănicioiu, Minister of Health, who thus justified the mobilizing announcement for voluntary donations. People answered the call and, within three days from the beginning of the voluntary blood donation campaign, those who came at the national transfusion centers increased by almost 40% compared to the time prior to this anouncement on the part of authorities, according to Mediafax.
“Romanians are willing to donate blood, just that there must be somebody to remind them and to show them how important this activity is. Ever since there has been a campaign and people have been mobilized, everyone is coming to donate. Romanians are very generous”, declared Florianda Neagu, in charge with the total blood collection compartment within the Blood Transfusion Center of Bucharest.
Andreea Rotaru added that Romanians should donate blood periodically, not just at the urge of authorities. Blood and blood products only have limited validity, which means that stocks cannot be accumulated on the long term.
Many of the donors who participated at the mobile session organised by Asociaţia React believe that state representatives do too little to promote the need for blood promotion at the national level. Donors propose, among others, the organizing of periodical campaigns to encourage voluntary blood donations, which should have an impact and which authorities should distribute via various channels, so that they reach as many people as possible.
“Donating should be promoted, for instance, via selfies (self-portrait photos, digitally made and then published on socializing networks – editor’s note). I believe that the people who want to donate are those who are very young and open-minded about such things”, emphasized Andreea Câtu. At the same time, Luminiţa Manolache, a 33-year old donor, states that it is very important that blood donors talk about their gesture to others. “The evening before the donation I met up with some friends at a café and I told them I couldn’t drink beer because I had to go to donate blood. They immediately started asking me questions about this. Maybe they’ll consider doing the same in the future”, Ms Manolache added.
The main pieces of advice for blood donors:
- you can donate blood only if you are between 18 and 60 years of age;
- don’t smoke one hour before and after the donation;
- before the blood donation, you can drink a cup of tea or coffee and have a light breakfast, which should include fruit and vegetables;
- women donors should weigh between 50 and 100 kilos, whereas men should weigh between 60 and 110 kilos;
- don’t drink alcohol 48 hours before the donation.
You can find a donor’s guide in Romanian here. For more information on blood donation, read the 282 law no. 282 of 5th October 2005. Companies, institutions or NGOs interested in organizing a donation session at their headquarters can fill in this form (in Romanian).
Translated in English by Alexandra Calu