Tamil Community Blood Donation Drive Inspires


Auckland Tamil Association members at the Epsom NZBlood Centre. (Photo: Supplied)

Members of the Auckland Tamil Association (ATA) donated blood yesterday (01.12.2022) at the Epsom NZBlood centre. The group is holding its eighth blood drive. “With the exception of pandemic years, we have been mobilising our community annually for the blood donation drive since we started our organization in 2015. This year, however, we have organised two sessions,” said Auckland Tamil Association’s president Vai Ravindran to Indian Newslink.
“Every year, we mobilise around 30 individuals.” In 2018, we had more than 30 people donate blood,” said ATA vice president Velmurugan Sellakannu, who has actively participated in five of the association’s eight donation drives. “NZBlood recommends that we only bring in approximately ten members each time. As such, we encourage our members to pre-register and organize contribution sessions according to the number of people registered.  This sometimes entails three sessions a month,” Ravindran explained.

Their oldest donor was 60 years old, while their youngest was only 18 years old.  “My mom is a member of ATA and when she asked if I would like to donate, though hesitant at first, I agreed. I must say I was quite nervous in the beginning. But now, after giving blood, I know I will return to donate again. It was barely a ten-minute session,” said Kalyan Ramprakash.

What is blood?

Blood Collected from Donor (Photo: Indian Newslink)

Blood is comprised of four main components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma, the protein-rich liquid that holds them all together.
Because it is uncommon for a patient to require all of the blood components at once, blood donations are normally divided into three portions for transfusion – red blood cells, platelets, and plasma.
Red cell components transport oxygen throughout the body. Transfusions of red blood cells are used to treat individuals with chronic anaemia (caused by diseases such as renal failure or cancer) and acute blood loss (as a result of trauma or surgery. The red blood cell has a 35-day shelf.
Platelets have unique blood clotting capabilities and can be utilised to stop bleeding after heart surgery and trauma. They can be used to treat people undergoing certain blood diseases and cancer therapies. Platelets have a 7-day shelf life.
Fresh Frozen Plasma makes up over half the volume of blood and is full of proteins and antibodies. Plasma primarily treats accident and trauma sufferers and individuals with impaired immune systems. Plasma may be preserved for up to two years or converted into 11 life-saving products for patients with weakened immune systems.

Appeal for plasma donation

Plasma Donation (Photo: NHS, UK)

“We are more in need of Plasma than whole blood,” said Meilin Sun, Donor Relations Coordinator of NZBLood. We can take in up to 163 donations in a day here but we currently have only an average of about 90 people donating a day,” she said. “In a plasma-only donation, blood is taken from the arm and processed by a high-tech system that separates plasma from blood.” The donor’s red blood cells and platelets are then returned to him or her, along with some saline. We require donors with strong veins because of the return. The entire procedure takes around 30-40 minutes,” Meilin explained.

ATA’s Velmurugan and Sulaiman with NZBlood’s Donor Relations Coordinator: Meilin Sun.

Every year, more than 50 tonnes of plasma is needed in New Zealand. The plasma collected from Kiwis is taken to a specialised facility, where it is transformed into about 12 lifesaving products. Plasma contributions that are not processed into plasma products are frozen and kept in the blood banks as blood components for transfusion. Prior to transfusion, the plasma is thawed in warm water baths.

How to donate blood?
To become a blood or plasma donor, you must be aged 16-70. Existing donors can continue to donate until their 75th birthday, and subject to authorisation by NZBS Medical Officers, may be eligible to continue to donate until their 81st birthday. Lapsed donors (who have given before, but not in the last 2 years) may be eligible to donate past their 71st birthday. For more information on donating blood please visit the NZBlood website.
 Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Auckland.

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