Do you know that you have in you something priceless, something that saves the lives of thousands of people every day? One of the few substances that humans still cannot replace with an artificial substitute. It's your blood! Meet Mariusz Milczarczyk, our colleague who donates his blood since he got 18 years old and recently received the Honorable Blood Donor title.
Hello Mariusz, what you are doing is impressive. How much blood did you have to donate to get the title of Honorary Blood Donor?
The title of Meritorious Honorable Blood Donor of the first degree is the highest of this category. To obtain it, I had to donate 18 liters of blood. In the common language of blood donors, we call it a bucket of blood. This means that I have already donated blood 40 times since we donate 450 ml of this precious liquid in a single donation. Still ahead of me is one more award of Honorary Blood Donor - Meritorious for the Health of the Nation. The Minister of Health awards it after donating 20 liters of blood, so I am still a bit short.
Mariusz, I sincerely congratulate you. How did it all start, and how long did you have to work for it?
It started pretty accidentally; a mobile blood collection van pulled up in front of the high school I was studying. My friends and I found out that donating blood would free us from all lessons for the rest of the day. And since I had a tough test that day, the prospect of being stabbed and seeing blood was not that scary. So I didn't get off to a very honorable start, but that's how my blood donation adventure began and has continued for 14 years now. I indeed could have reached the title sooner, but I had many moments when I donated blood too seldom.
Mariusz, why do you actually do it? What makes you want to donate blood?
When I realized that blood could not be produced, that the only source of it is us, humans, I decided that this is an important issue. We should avoid thinking that if I don't donate blood, then nothing will happen because someone else will. It doesn't work that way. We are all responsible for ensuring that the blood supply is sufficient. Unfortunately, we often realize this only in crisis situations, when our loved ones or we are in need. And it's always good to take a day off 😊 That's why I sometimes call myself a dishonorable blood donor.
I think you exaggerate 😊 What you do matters a lot. Apart from a day off, what else can blood donors receive for their commitment?
Depending on the amount of blood donated, donors can count on different privileges. Indeed, it looks different in each country. Currently, in Poland, the rules have changed, and after donating blood, you can already get two days off. In addition, after giving blood a few times, you can count on discounts on the city and national transport. I am currently entitled to free public transport in Warsaw. Additionally, blood donors can go to the doctor's office or pharmacies without queues. Blood donors also receive discounts on certain medications and vitamins, such as iron. Some blood donation stations also organize loyalty programs, where you collect points and exchange them for additional discounts at their partners or gadgets. Of course, after each donation, you get a regeneration meal, those famous chocolates.
Why are people afraid to donate blood? Could it be due to ignorance?
I think so. There are many long-held myths about donating blood. I have had many conversations with my grandmother, who believed that donating blood causes a high blood pressure and weakens your body. She only realized how important it is when she was in the hospital and needed blood. Many people are afraid of the stabbing and the sight of blood itself, but it is survivable, and you get used to it, and the donation itself does not take too long. I also have a fear of stabbing and cannulas, but I have already donated blood 40 times. You can get used to it.
Maybe you can explain to people who have some fears what the whole procedure of donating blood is like?
Nowadays, in the era of the Covid, you have to undergo a preliminary verification and temperature measurement before you can enter the blood donation station. Then you have to fill out a questionnaire about your health and any foreign travel or medical procedures you have undergone to rule out any situations that might disqualify you as a donor. These include, for example, a visit to a malaria-prone country, surgery or medical procedures, recent illness, or a recent tattoo. In these cases, you must wait a specified time. A small sample of blood is then taken for quick analysis - this checks whether your blood is good enough to give it other patients. The results of this quick test are discussed with your doctor, who makes a final decision about whether you can donate blood. If you don't know, you can also find out your blood type. If we pass the qualification successfully, we go to the next room, sit on a chair and donate blood. This usually takes between 4 and 10 minutes. The feeling is quite unpleasant, but the most considerable pain is when you insert the needle and take off the patch after the whole procedure. I assure you that everyone can survive it 😊.
Do we need special preparation to donate blood?
Yes, there are a few rules you should follow. Indeed, the day before donation, you should not drink any alcohol and should hydrate well. On the day of donation, you should drink two liters of water or fruit juice and eat a nutritious but not fatty meal without animal fats. Preparations, as you can see, do not require much sacrifice from us.
Mariusz, congratulations once again, and thank you for sharing your experience with blood donation and highlighting the topic for us. Hopefully, this will encourage at least some of us to become donors!