What better month to discuss donating blood than February, the month of hearts, love and the color red.
Now don’t get squeamish and stop reading. I fully understand any nervousness you might have. I stepped out of my comfort zone this past summer by donating blood. The worst part of the entire experience was the finger prick to determine if I had enough iron to safely donated 450 ml of blood.
Geneva’s hospital, the HUG, uses 22,000 units of blood each year. Red blood cells are given to people who lose blood due to trauma or surgery and to patients suffering from sickle cell anemia. Platelets are given to cancer patients whose own have been destroyed by chemo therapy and radiation; while plasma is used to treat burn victims, organ transplants, hemophiliacs, HIV and more.
The actual drawing of blood takes only 10-12 minutes but the screening is a lot more complicated. I hear stories of frustrated donors being turned away but what you need to understand is your blood must be as safe as possible to transfuse into a person struggling to stay alive. The two page form (version francais) you fill out in advance asks questions about visits to the dentist in the past 72 hours, any prescription and non-prescription medication, vaccines or tattoos in the past year, etc. But the main criteria are:
- For your own safety, you must be between 18 and 60 years old, weigh more than 50 kgs and have sufficient iron in your blood.
- You cannot have lived in the United Kingdom for more than 6 months between 1980 and 1996.
- You must wait one month to donate blood if you have had a fever over 38C.
- Depending on which countries you have travelled to and at what time of year, you may need to wait between one month and a year before donating blood. The general list and waiting period can be found here.
While the on-line version of the form is in French there are English forms at the Center. Furthermore, you must watch a video that describes the entire process, the reasons for the screening process and how to care for yourself before and after giving blood. In order to save time, you can watch the video in English or French here. Please note that the video is a requirement and there is no English version at the center.
The Centre de Transfusion Sanguine is located on the 5th floor of the HUG located at Rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil 6. For information about the opening times, public transport options and free parking, click here. Though at this time all on-line information is in French, there are English speaking nurses and doctors available to speak to you at the center. If you prefer to give blood closer to home, your commune probably has a blood drive once or twice a year as do the International organizations around the United Nations.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/