My Pythian Volunteer Day: Blood Donation

Mar 12, 2013 / By André Araújo

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BD

Every employee at Pythian can use one workday per year to spend on activities to help the community. We call it a Pythian Volunteer Day. It’s up to the employee to decide what to use if for and when. This year I used my volunteer day to donate blood, and this post is a short story about my experience.

I started donating blood when I arrived in Australia in 2005. The office where I was working at the time was close to an Australian Red Cross blood donor center and one day, when I was coming back from lunch, I decided to go in and inquire about blood donation. I booked my first donation there on the spot and started donating; not as regularly as I wanted, but still every so often.

In 2009, due to changes in life and routine, I stopped donating. Quite a few times since then I thought about starting again but never did. Last month, when I saw a Facebook update by Austin Arrowsmith saying that he’d just donated blood, it was like someone shouting in my ear: “Slacker! You should do that too!” I hadn’t decided yet how to use my Pythian Volunteer Day, and this seemed like a great opportunity and a great cause. So I did it.

Human blood is a product always in high demand, and the lives of many people depend on donors. Currently in Australia, only 1 in 30 people donate blood and 1 in 3 will need blood in their lifetime; about 27000 donations are needed every week in Australia alone. The donated blood can help in a large number of cases, from accidents to cancer and other serious illnesses.

You can choose to donate whole blood (plasma + red cells), plasma, or platelets. Each one of these blood sub-products has a specific use and can help many people. When I started donating blood, I learned that in Australia my red cells cannot be used since I come from an area of incidence of Chagas disease (Brazil). If I donate whole blood, the blood is later centrifuged and only the plasma and platelets are used. All the red cells are discarded.

Since my red cells are dear to me, I decided to donate plasma instead. The process of donating plasma is a bit more involved and lengthier because the red cells need to be separated from the plasma and returned to the donor. However, on the plus side, plasma can be donated much more often than whole blood because the body needs less time to recover since it doesn’t lose the red cells. Whole blood donations can be done every 12 weeks, while plasma and platelets can be donated every 2-3 weeks.

And when you finish donating, you get free treats!! Milkshakes, hotdogs, muffins, biscuits, etc. All to make you feel well and come back often to donate more.

Roll up your sleeves and help. Every drop of blood counts!

Note about the picture: Since I haven’t donated blood for a long time, I needed to donate whole blood once before being allowed to donate plasma. That’s why the picture shows the whole blood unit.

Your Pythian Volunteer Day can be used towards any initiatives. Do you have any ideas? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experience.

11 Responses to “My Pythian Volunteer Day: Blood Donation”

  • Scott Petersen says:

    Good on you for donating! I donate fairly regularly myself and the feeling of being able to give something that can save a life really is tremendous. It is a feeling of community that I doesn’t exist all that much in busy city life.

    I am surprised that it is 12 weeks between whole blood donations in Australia. Here in Canada the minimum time between whole blood donations is 8 weeks.

    • Thanks for your comments, Scott! I totally agree with you: it feels great to help.

      8 weeks is good for whole blood donations! It’s 50% more donations than in Australia. I guess each country has their own rules, but I’m not sure how they get to those numbers. But if Canadians can donate every 8 weeks, Australian should also be able too! :) For one, it would go a long way to help overcome the blood shortage.

      Thanks for sharing and good on you too!!

  • Rene Antunez says:

    Very cool André, this is something I also try to do on a regular basis, maybe not the 12 or 8 weeks between donations, but normally twice a year. It might seem like a little thing, but a lot of people regularly need this.

  • Austin Arrowsmith says:

    I like to be the cause of something – even if it is an unsaid nag in your ear ;-)

    I believe the reason for the 12 weeks is best case scenario for regeneration. Anything less than that runs a higher risk of lower red cell count, and higher risk to you. They don’t like risk at the Red Cross. I rocked up on my bike once and they said I ran the risk of getting dehydrated from riding afterwards and didn’t want to run that risk with me.

    If you donate plasma only you can donate as frequently as every fortnight, as you get the red blood cells back and it cuts down on the regeneration time.

    As you donate up to 900mL of plasma, (compared to 500mL of whole red blood), and you donate 6 times as frequently, you can technically give up to 12 times more of these vital fluids this way in the same time period.

    The Red Cross are constantly collecting stats on how you went after your last donation, what levels of hydration are enough, and how much they can take without causing any detrimental effects (The amount of plasma they take has increased in the past few years, along with the changes in requirements of your fluid intake before sitting down to donate).

    I guess it’s different over on the East Coast, as I don’t get muffins or hot dogs over here, but a variety of 6+ drinks, biscuits, cheeses, chocolate bars, etc.

    Definitely a worthwhile cause that I’m proud to be a part of. And Kudos to you André for taking it back up! :-D

  • Angella says:

    I wonder if we can arrange a blood drive at work? As with anything in life ease of access increases participation. There are blood mobiles that go around, so I’m sure you could probably get them to come right into the office. All of Austin’s donating has started making me feel like a slacker as well :)

  • Rachel Knight says:

    Hi Andre,

    I’d just like to ask about the accompanying photo with this article… Is this your picture? If so, would I be able to use it for a Student health magazine? (Purely as an assignment, not to be published.)
    Thanks, Rachel.

    • Hi, Rachel,

      Yes, that’s me and yes, you can use it.
      Would you be able to send me a copy of the magazine? :)

      Regards,
      Andre

      • Rachel says:

        Thanks a lot! I haven’t finished the magazine yet… but I can send you a screen shot of the article I wrote with your photo if you like. Do you have an email I could send it to? :)

        Rachel.

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