On Monday Techzim had a field trip to the National Blood Service. This trip enlightened us all on the need for more individuals to come out and donate blood. In light of this trip I wanted to take a look at all the things that blood does for us and our bodies.
Some of this may sound like high school science stuff but this kind of information is important. Knowing all that the blood does means we may be able to better appreciate and maintain our good health. I hope that some of this information may nudge some of you to visit NBSZ to make a donation or even just to enquire about the process.
We all know what blood is, but let’s have a little refresher
Blood (as we all know) is a red liquid pumped by the heart that delivers oxygen and nutrients where needed. It’s made up of a number of different cells, micro and macro elements. Blood is broadly made up of the following:
- Cells (Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, Platelets)
- Fibres (dissolved proteins)
- Plasma (Extracellular Matrix)
How do all these cells and elements help blood fulfil its natural function?
Blood performs the following functions:
Distribution, blood is the main stream by which many things in our bodies need reach their target location.
- Red Blood cell haemoglobin, their high surface area biconcave shape are responsible for bringing oxygen from the lungs and carrying carbon dioxide out of the body.
- Blood carries all the nutrients from the food we eat to different parts of the body.
- All the waste products that our bodies make, for example nitrogenous waste is carried by the blood and delivered to the kidneys to be excreted as urine
- The blood transports hormones from endocrine glands (pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, thyroid, adrenal etc), these hormones like for example human growth hormone (which triggers growth) is secreted by the pituitary gland and then taken by the blood to wherever it’s needed.
Regulation, blood is part of a number of regulatory systems
- Blood helps us maintain our body temperature, it absorbs and distributes heat throughout the body. So if it’s hot your blood vessels will enlarge allowing more blood through it to transmit that heat out through your skin. If you are cold, your blood vessels shrink allowing less blood through them and trapping as much heat as possible.
- Blood maintains the body’s optimum pH (7.35 to 7.45). The body’s cells need the pH to be at the right level in order for them to perform their various functions. Micro-elements (proteins and chemicals like bicarbonate) dissolved in the blood help to maintain that, and act as a buffer.
- The total volume of blood in an adult is somewhere between 4.7 to 5.5 litres. The level (depending on the individual) needs to be maintained in order to have adequate circulatory volume. Salts like sodium chloride and others help to prevent fluid loss into tissue spaces.
Protection, white blood cells and platelets are always in the blood in order to fight infection and to stop blood loss.
- Platelets are nature’s bandage. When you have a cut or a bruise they aggregate or stick together to form a barrier. They do this through a process called blood coagulation or clotting. This barrier that eventually becomes a scab is the body’s way of stopping further blood loss.
- Another important component of blood are the antibodies, complement proteins, and white blood cells that help the body fight off infections.
So with the high school biology recap done with, why is it important to donate blood?
- Child birth
- Severe injury
- Severe infection
- Major surgery
- Conditions like anaemia, haemophilia (the reduction or inability of the blood ability to clot), cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, thrombocytopenia (a deficiency of platelets in the blood)
In the above cases, there is damage, malfunction, or loss of one or more the blood’s components. This means that the blood won’t be able to perform one or more of its normal functions.
The one case that affects Africa in particular and that I think is the one that I hope persuades those of you who aren’t donors to consider a donation, is the need for blood in the Maternity Wards.
In 2017 according to The World Health Organisation, 295 000 women died in child labour worldwide. The majority (86%) of those women were in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa constituted nearly two thirds of that figure (196 000) and Southern Asia 58 000.
“In 2017, according to the Fragile States Index, 15 countries were considered to be “very high alert” or “high alert” being a fragile state (South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ethiopia), and these 15 countries had MMRs in 2017 ranging from 31 (Syria) to 1150 (South Sudan)”WHO
The complications that cause maternal mortality may present themselves during and following pregnancy and child birth. The one complication that is relevant to the case of blood, is excessive bleeding after child birth (Postpartum Haemorrahage).
“Post-partum haemorrhage is excessive bleeding following the birth of a baby. About 1 to 5 percent of women have post-partum haemorrhage and it is more likely with a caesarean birth. Haemorrhage most commonly occurs after the placenta is delivered. The average amount of blood loss after the birth of a single baby in vaginal delivery is about 500 ml. The average amount of blood loss for a caesarean birth is approximately 1,000 ml. Most post-partum haemorrhage occurs right after delivery, but it can occur later as well.”Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Post-partum haemorrhage is among the leading causes of maternal mortality. Across Africa facilities may not have enough in supply or reserve to meet the number of cases that may need blood.
NBSZ says that 40% of the blood they receive goes to the maternity wards. The supply of blood they have is limited and because of the coronavirus the usual movement of people has been disrupted. They aren’t getting as many donors as they need to meet the present and projected demands of blood.
They need to be in a position to meet the demand of blood so that no mother or any other person goes without, if they should ever be in need of blood. On our trip there they implored us to share the message with anyone we could in order to increase the numbers of donors.
Anyone interested can visit NBSZ at:
- Mazowe Street North, after Parirenyatwa Hospital Main Entrance
- Joina City Medical Centre Second Floor, Joina City
Or you can contact them on (024) 2251851
You can also find information about NBSZ on their website, the link is here