Saving lives by donating blood every three months
Three youths share their experiences donating blood as often as possible.
When Adelle Yi was 17, she donated her blood for the first time.
A month later, she was rushed to the hospital after a bleeding polyp in her stomach caused her to throw up blood. During the surgery for her polyp removal, her haemoglobin level was so low that she needed two blood transfusions.
The incident changed her perception towards blood donation. In the past, she only considered donating whenever she was free or passing by, but now she commits to frequent blood donation by marking out a date on her calendar every three months – the minimum waiting period before the next donation.
“Now that I’ve recovered from that incident, I try to donate more regularly, because I realised that blood donation is actually really important and can literally save lives,” she said.
Since then, the 24-year-old has donated blood five times, and is among many youths who have become regular blood donors.
We spoke to three of these youths to discuss what blood donation is like and why they are so enthusiastic about donating blood.
Donating blood for the first time
While waiting for his National Service to start, Mohamed Aefy donated blood for the first time with a group of friends. Now 27, the administrative manager usually donates blood alone or brings new groups of friends to donate with him.
He has donated blood a total of 11 times, and is a blood donation ambassador involved in past campaigns for the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old polytechnic student Rashmika Raja Mohan donated for the first time in Nov 2020. She was at a birthday function for Sathya Sai Baba with her family – all of whom are regular donors – and there was a section cordoned off for blood donation.
She said: “Because my family was so convincing, showing me the number of lives I can save if I donate my blood, I agreed to give it a try. How bad can it be?”
Her first donation went well, and she now plans to donate blood again this February with her brother.
The fuss-free donation process
Adelle’s haemoglobin level tends to hover around 12.5g/dL, which is the minimum level needed for females to donate blood. To ensure her haemoglobin level is above that mark, she takes vitamins and eats iron-rich food a week before donating blood.
Similarly, Rashmika drank a lot of water, ate a hearty breakfast and had Milo the day she was planning to donate blood.
When they reached the blood donation centre, each filled out a form to declare their particulars.
After a doctor measured their haemoglobin levels and weight to ensure that they were eligible to donate blood, they squeezed a ball and their blood was drawn with a needle.
Aefy said: “To be honest, even though I’ve done it 11 times, I still feel a little scared when I see the big needles at the start. But once it goes in, okay lah, it’s not that bad.”
“It’s not painful. It’s just like an ant bite,” Rashmika agreed.
Once the blood is drawn and the injection spot is bandaged, donors get to a rest area to relax and get some refreshments. Although Aefy lives in the west, he likes donating blood at the Health Sciences Authority building at Outram Park as “their rest area has really good food”.
After donating, it is recommended for donors to have a meal and drink sufficient water throughout the day. Although Rashmika reported feeling lethargic and dizzy for the rest of the day, she felt fine by the next day.
Why more people should donate blood
When asked why he donated blood, Aefy had a straightforward answer: “Because I can. Because I’m fortunate enough to be able to donate.”
Similarly, Rashmika was initially hesitant to donate blood, but her family managed to convince her. They said that, as long as they were alive, they should save the lives of others.
Adelle has a personal reason for choosing to donate blood.
“I always remind myself how I felt when I had the polyp incident, and how much the blood donors helped me. I think it’s only right that I donate for other people out there,” she said.
She believes everyone who can should also donate blood regularly, as it is important for hospitals to have healthy levels of bloodstock. In the case of accidents or illnesses, your loved ones would then have immediate access to blood.
“If you’re scared of pain or getting pricked by a needle, there are people lying in the hospital who are scared for their lives,” she said.
Aefy also pointed out that the Red Cross tries to make the donation process as easy as possible; there are multiple locations around Singapore, donating only takes an hour every three months, and they try to make you comfortable and give you food.
To first-time donors who may be afraid, all three youths suggested going to donate with friends or family, who can support you.
As for donors who may be afraid of the pain, Aefy said: “Don’t focus on your own pain. Focus on who can potentially benefit from it.”
“There isn’t a need for any incentives. Helping someone who’s really in dire need is the incentive. Once your motivations are right, I think the pain will be a small issue.”