My foray into donating blood came when a friend asked me to donate blood for his mum. I am a universal donor – O negative – so most hospitals like my blood type. I said yes and continued donate blood regularly for his mum for a few years, until she passed. It was the start of a journey.
In a way, I’m so thankful I had the chance to help his mum, but also to be made aware of the need to donate. To be honest, donating had never crossed my mind, as I went blissfully unaware through life. It only takes half an hour though, every three months and you could save up to three lives with your donation.
What to expect when you’re donating blood
It’s a fairly easy process to donate blood – you need to fill out some forms at the location where you donate blood. After that you take a number, weigh yourself and have a tiny blood sample taken from your finger. Next, you have a chat with the doctor to check your blood pressure and discuss any concerns.
From the doctor’s office you walk straight into the blood donation rooms. After 10 minutes of donating blood, the nurse will ask you to sit down for another 10 minutes, just to make sure you don’t faint on your way out – this hardly happens! They usually give you some snacks like meehoon or nasi lemak, coupled with an apple and a milo. You also receive six iron and ferrous pills, which they recommend you take. I failed to do this once and I almost failed to donate the next time, due to low iron levels.
When can you donate blood?
To donate blood you need to be aged between 18 and 60 years old, weight at least 45 kg (I have no fear here!), be in good physical and mental health with no chronic medical illness, not on long term medications and not been intoxicated by alcohol within 24 hours prior to donation. Also, you should not be fasting and you need to have enough sleep (more than 5 hours) the night before donating. If you’re not a Malaysian citizen, you need to stay at least one year in Malaysia before you can donate.
You will be unable to donate blood if you have stayed in the United Kingdom or Ireland between 1980 until 1996 for a period of 6 months or more; or if you stayed in Europe from 1980 onward for a period of 5 years or more. This is because of the possible risk of transmitting the human form of bovine Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Where can you donate blood?
I always go to the National Blood Bank (Pusat Darah Negara) on Jalan Tun Razak in KL, simply because I’m used to going there, but you can go to any hospital near you. The number of the National Blood bank is 03 26132688. You can also email them here.
They often conduct blood donation drives in different venues, like malls. You can check out locations and dates here.