The Easiest Way to Save A Life

Are you deathly afraid of needles?
Are you sick (not with flu, like terminally)?
Are you dead?

If you have answered no to these three questions, there is no excuse to not sign up as a blood or platelet donor.

Cape Town currently has enough blood stock for four days. The SANBS has enough for only 2.4 days. Blood can only be kept for a limited amount of time and, as a country, we go through a lot of it. This is why regular donors are so important.

I’ve been a blood donor for a while. At Stellenbosch University they come round every 56 days and run all day clinics in the Neelsie, which is where I began.  Then I started working full time in the bookstore and, lo and behold, every 56 days a clinic would be set up in the bowels of Cavendish and I could pop over in my lunch break to donate.


But then I moved to Red and Yellow and there is no mobile clinic near there. I went once or twice to the permanent clinic, located on Long Street, but even though I could always find parking and it was never an issue, I still kind of talked myself out of going every time. So the last time I donated was in May last year. Unacceptable.

I popped over to the head office in Pinelands, ten minutes up the highway, on Wednesday and had my blood tested. Turns out I am a perfect candidate for platelet donation. I have good blood pressure, A negative blood type (which is a rarer type) and a 279 000 platelet count.

When I told my boss I was donating blood, she sent me this. I would like to state categorically, for the record, that it is nothing at all like this. Nothing.


Donating blood is super easy. It’s a pretty small needle, the whole process takes about 30 minutes and with one pint of blood you can save three lives. That’s three people who will live longer to hug their families because you gave up 30 minutes and a little bit of blood, which you won’t even notice is gone. You can continue your day as normal afterwards and you get free cookies out of the deal.

Red blood cells are easier to collect but take longer to regenerate, which is why you can only donate every 56 days.

Platelets regenerate after two days and they will usually call you every 3 weeks to donate, but the process is a bit more complicated. Because of the long process and because platelets can only be kept for five days before they have to be used or tossed,  they usually collect platelets for specific patients. Leukemia patients. And they will call you when they need you.


Platelets are kind of gross. And that machine in the background is indeed called a Shake-O-Mat.

The process takes about two hours. They hook you up to a complicated machine which pulls your blood in, separates out the platelets, and then pushes the left over red cells back into your arm. Because your blood is leaving your body for a little while and then coming back in, they treat it with anti-coagulants to stop it from clotting. This can cause your body to tingle. They gave me calcium to ease the tingling, but it’s still a pretty weird sensation.

All the nurses I have ever dealt with at WP Blood have been absolutely lovely. Kind, friendly and genuinely grateful for your donation. The head office, where special donations happen, is equipped with WiFi and DVD’s and the kitchen brings you a sandwich while you sit there. It also opens at 7:00 a.m. So basically yesterday I rolled out of bed, drove to Pinelands and then had breakfast and coffee and read the morning newspaper. With a needle stuck in my arm. Got to work ten minutes late. Easy. I did have a bit of a headache later in the day, but nothing unmanageable.

I’m very pleased to be back in the donating game. I figure I am young and healthy, I have no reason to not. The process is painless. The rewards are unimaginable. You are giving someone a chance at life.

If you have never donated before, start with donating blood to ease yourself into it. Check out WP Blood Transfusion Service‘s website to see if there are any mobile clinics in your area or visit the permanent clinic on Long Street, in N1 City or in Blue Route Mall. They also give you tons of information about the process.

If you’re not in Cape Town, check out SANBS for more information on where to donate in your area.

3 thoughts on “The Easiest Way to Save A Life

  1. My problem is that I was diagnosed with skin cancer and need to have been clear for 10 years and have a clean bill of health from my dr before I can donate. Next year is my 10 year anniversary cancer free.

    I will be signing up.

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