Keeping the blood pumping

Saturday July 07, 2018 Written by Published in Health
Daniel Fisher from Tourism Cook Islands looked more than happy to be donating his blood on Thursday. 18070532 Daniel Fisher from Tourism Cook Islands looked more than happy to be donating his blood on Thursday. 18070532

Staff from the Cook Islands Red Cross were kept busy on Thursday replenishing Rarotonga’s blood stocks with another round of blood donations from some of their registered donors.


Blood taken earlier in the week on Monday had already been used up, so more donations were required to refill the hospital blood bank.

There are currently 331 registered blood donors on Rarotonga, 71 of whom were newly signed up during the most recent Red Cross blood drive on June 14.

While the Rarotonga blood bank keeps stocks of O-positive and A-positive on hand at all times, registered donors with other blood types are only called in to donate when needed.

“We only stock the O-positive and A-positive blood types because we have a wide community population of those two types of blood donors,” said Red Cross blood donation programme coordinator Patience Vainerere, explaining that donors with other types of blood can’t just show up any time to donate.

“The most important reason why we don’t allow an influx of people to just show up and donate blood when it’s not needed is because there is an expiry period of 30 days,” said Vainerere, referring to how long the blood can be safely stored. “It’s not long – that’s why we don’t stock rare blood types.

“In the case of rare blood types, we call them as soon as they are needed.”

Vainerere said the Red Cross has all the blood types covered on their registered donor list, but when it comes to the negative blood types, “we don’t have a long list”.

There are also some cases in which people are not eligible to donate blood, including anyone who lived in the UK for six months or more between 1980 and 1996 (due to a risk of mad cow disease), anyone who is on antibiotics or who has a viral infection, and anyone who is pregnant – which includes a one-year stand-down after giving birth.

“For pregnant mothers, it’s because the baby needs all the nutrients from the breastmilk and giving blood will drop their haemoglobin level,” explained Vainerere. “If they give birth and they don’t breastfeed – they bottle-feed the child – then they can donate blood.”

If you’re interested in becoming a registered blood donor, contact the Red Cross on 22598 or 22664 for more information. Alternatively, you can register up at the hospital laboratory.

“You don’t have to go through the hospital system,” says Vainerere. “Go directly to the lab – that’s where they register.”

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