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World Blood Donor Day

To raise awareness of the need for voluntary unpaid blood donors to save people’s lives.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To raise awareness of the need for voluntary unpaid blood donors to save people’s lives.

Preparation and materials

  • Visit the NZBlood website at: www.nzblood.co.nz/Give-blood/Amazing-Stories and download an image of Graeme Thomas to display on a screen during step 1 of the assembly.
  • Visit the Give Blood website at: www.blood.co.uk/giving-blood/amazing-stories and download images of Awele Nwosu-Akeh, Brooke Cornwell, Luke Craig, Mike Austin and Nisa Karia to display on a screen during step 7 of the assembly.
  • Four 1-litre bottles and two half-litre bottles filled with water to show how much blood we each have in our bodies. You could add a few dashes of red food colouring to the water if you want to make the visual link clearer.
  • Choose some meditative music to play as the students leave and have available a means of playing it.
  • Note: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not permit blood transfusions so it is important to be sensitive when using this assembly.

Assembly

  1. Display the image of Graeme Thomas downloaded from the Internet.

    Graeme Thomas is a remarkable man. He is a New Zealander and is now retired. In his lifetime, he has saved the lives of thousands of babies. That’s a lot of babies! You may be thinking, ‘He must have been a doctor, professor of medicine, even a missionary.’ You would be wrong. Graeme worked all his life in an office.

    In 1968, he answered an advert in his local paper asking for men with the rhesus negative blood type to donate blood. He has continued to do so regularly ever since, sometimes fortnightly. By 2010, he had donated 500 times. Because of his blood type his blood donations can be used to make the anti-D immunoglobulin injection, given to many mothers to prevent their babies suffering from haemolytic disease of the newborn – HDN for short. Without this injection many babies would have developed severe anaemia and died. That is how he has saved so many babies.

    Graeme’s simple, regular gesture has therefore had a profound impact on many lives.
  2. Show the water bottles.

    This represents the amount of blood we each have in our bodies – approximately 5 litres. Blood is vital for life. It carries oxygen from our lungs to all parts of the body, as well as nutrients, hormones and waste products to be carried out of the body. The heart pumps our blood through a network of arteries and veins.

    Demonstrate by asking the pupils to tap the undersides of their wrists. Most will see their veins become more pronounced. Nurses often do this when they need to insert a needle into a vein to take a blood sample.
  3. Some blood facts.
    • Blood is made up of cells, fluid and plasma.
    • Blood is made up of three types of cells – red cells, which transport oxygen round the body, white cells, which fight infection, and platelets, to help blood to clot.
    • Plasma is the liquid part of blood.
    • Blood is a type of living tissue. Once donated, it needs to be stored in a special refrigerator.
    • There are eight blood groups.
  4. Some donation facts.

    • Around 92 million units of blood are collected globally each year, nearly 50 per cent of these in high-income countries.
    • They are used to support various treatments, from complex surgery, advanced trauma care, pregnancy problems and trauma-related injuries to malaria.
    • Voluntary unpaid donors account for 100 per cent of blood supplies in 62 countries.
    • Donated blood should always be screened for HIV, hepatitis B and C.
    • A single unit of blood can benefit several patients:
      - red cells are given to patients suffering from severe anaemia and malaria
      - platelets are given to prevent bleeding
      - white cells are given to those with severe bacterial or fungal infections and those undergoing cancer therapy and bone marrow transplants.
    • Whole blood is used to treat trauma due to accidents and surgical procedures where there is an excessive loss of blood.
  5. Our bodies can cope with losing up to about a third of our 5 litres of blood.

    Remove 1.5 litres of the water bottles.

    If you lost that much blood, the lost fluid could be replaced by giving you a saline drip. Then, over the coming weeks, your body would make new red blood cells to replace the ones lost.

    Lose more than this amount of blood, though, and you would need a blood transfusion to replace the blood more quickly than your body can.
  6. Some transfusion facts.
    • 1 unit of blood = 300 millilitres.
    • It takes four hours to take this in by transfusion.
    • It was in 1628 that William Harvey, a leading physician, demonstrated blood circulates round the body.
    • In 1818, blood transfusions were first used in cases of haemorrhages after childbirth.
    • In 1921, British Red Cross members all donated blood at King’s College Hospital, London, so gave birth to the first voluntary blood service.
    • The first UK blood bank was established in 1937 and, in 1986 and 1991, testing for HIV and hepatitis C were introduced.
  7. Show the images of the five people from the Give Blood website mentioned above.

    These people all look fairly healthy, but the one factor they have in common is that they would not be alive today if it wasn’t for blood donations.

    • Mike was a motorsport fanatic who had a serious accident. In surgery, his entire volume of blood was replaced four times. He needed 33 units of blood.
    • Awele needs a blood transfusion every four weeks.
    • Nisa has a rare blood disorder that means her body cannot produce haemoglobin to make her own red blood cells. She relies totally on donated blood to survive. She has had 1300 units of blood so far and needs a transfusion every three weeks.
    • Brooke has a rare condition of failed blood marrow. She needs blood every three to four weeks to survive.
    • Luke was in a car crash and suffered serious internal injuries. He received 24 pints of donated blood.

    As you can see, donated blood is used to replace blood lost due to accidents, injuries and in the course of surgical operations, as well as to treat diseases where a particular blood component is missing.

  8. Who can give blood? You, if you are over 17 and in generally good health, and your teachers until the age of retirement. Male donors can give every 12 weeks and females every 16 weeks.

    On this tenth anniversary of Blood Donor Day, as on any other day, new blood donors will be gratefully welcomed in transfusion centres all over the country. Give blood, give a gift of life.

Time for reflection

Who knows, some of you hearing this assembly today might in your lifetimes be like Graeme Thomas and give blood as a habit. As Graeme says, ‘Well, it’s worthwhile and its easy!’

(Note: The writer of this assembly has cause to be very grateful for the gift of life provided by blood donors and blood transfusions. She haemorrhaged badly at the births of both her daughters and needed five transfusions. In contrast, a university friend of the author, working as a missionary in North Africa, developed the same problem in her labour, but, because of a lack of medical expertise and no access to blood transfusions, she died while giving birth.)

Prayer

Dear God,
we thank you for the gift of life.
We thank you for the skills of surgeons, doctors and nurses and the medical treatment they give that can save the lives of many people.
We thank you for the volunteers who regularly and faithfully donate blood so others might live.
Amen.

Music

Play the chosen meditative music as the students leave.

Publication date: June 2013   (Vol.15 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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