He challenges South Africans to follow his example this World Blood Donor Day
Ninety-year-old Maurice Creswick has donated 413 pints, or 195.4 litres, of blood since he first began this lifesaving habit in 1944 at the age of 18. He has been recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest regular blood donor and to mark World Blood Donor Day, 14 June, Mr Creswick threw down the gauntlet to other South Africans.
Asked what motivates him to keep donating blood, the sprightly nonagenarian says: “It is because I can do so much for so many people with such little effort.”
On Wednesday, Mr Creswick visited Netcare Milpark Hospital as part of his campaign to encourage South Africans to donate blood. “Mr Creswick is an inspiration to us all, showing how a single person can potentially touch the lives of so many others simply through regular blood donation,” says Netcare Milpark Hospital’s trauma programme manager, Rene Grobler.
Netcare Milpark Hospital, which has an accredited level 1 trauma unit, has extended a blood donation challenge of its own to Netcare Union, Netcare Garden City, Netcare Sunninghill, Netcare Unitas and Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial hospitals.
“The idea is to encourage as many staff, patients, visitors and other members of the public as possible to do their bit for our country through donating blood. At Netcare Milpark Hospital, we are lucky enough to have Mr Creswick, a world champion and true blood donation veteran, who will be cheering on our efforts,” Grobler explains.
This year’s World Blood Donor Day is commemorated under the theme “Blood connects us all”. As one pint of blood can potentially save up to three lives, according to the International Red Cross, Mr Creswick could have touched up to 1 239 lives through his blood donation over the years. “This is a truly patriotic gesture, demonstrating a level of social consciousness from which many of us in the younger generations can learn a lot,” she adds.
According to SANBS, as of this past Tuesday the country’s blood stock reserve was only enough for 2.6 days. SANBS requires a stock level of five days to ensure it can meet demand. Donated blood is commonly given to accident victims, people who are severely anaemic, surgical patients, and women who have lost blood while giving birth, among others.
“When you donate blood, you are giving the gift of life and there is no more profound way to express care for your fellow South Africans than by sharing your life blood. Keeping yourself healthy so that you can continue to donate blood, like our blood donation champion Mr Creswick, is its own reward,” Grobler observes.
Grobler says in order to maintain and meet the demand of the thousands of patients in need of blood transfusions, SANBS needs to collect 3 000 units of blood per day. According to the World Health Organization there are on average only 11.7 donations per 1 000 people in middle income countries such as South Africa, compared to 33.1 donations per 1 000 people in high income countries. “We really want to improve on this ratio as South Africans are renowned for their spirit of Ubuntu, and blood donation is a logical extension of this.”
Criteria for first-time donor to donate blood:
- Must be between the ages of 16 and 65
- Must have a body mass of at least 50kg
- Must adhere to safe sexual practises
- Must be free of diseases such as HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C.
People should eat a small snack within four hours before donating blood, as this can help to offset chances of feeling faint or light-headed afterwards.
“Through our inter-hospital blood donation challenge, we hope to encourage people to become frequent, regular blood donors,” Grobler says.
SANBS tests every unit of blood in order to deem it safe for transfusion. The unit of blood is separated into plasma, platelets and red blood cells.
“According to SANBS, if you are donating blood for the first time, your plasma is quarantined until your next donation. By your next donation, if all tests come back negative, then the quarantined plasma from your first donation will be used,” Grobler explains.
“Unfortunately, this also applies to people who have not donated blood for a while. Only once you have made three donations and the tests are negative for diseases that can be transmitted through blood, then all the components of your blood can be used. This is to ensure the safety of the person receiving the blood and this is why it is necessary for people to donate regularly,” she explains.
“The only way we can successfully overcome the shortage is if we raise awareness and get more people to donate more frequently. By law you may only donate every 56 days and this is done to ensure that a donor has enough time to regenerate the red cells. You are allowed to donate about 480 ml of blood at a time.”
Between 10am and 4pm on Wednesday, members of the public can donate blood at Netcare Milpark Hospital, where a tent will be erected in the parking lot for this purpose. The SANBS can be reached on 0800 11 90 31 for further information about blood donation.
General manager of Netcare Milpark Hospital, Anton Gillis, applauded Mr Creswick on his achievement of having donated 413 pints of blood. “His selfless regular blood donation is an inspiration to us all. If each of us followed his example, South Africa would never be faced with a shortage of blood reserves. We urge everyone to get involved in this simple act of generosity, least of all because you never know when you might be the patient who needs a blood transfusion,” Gillis concluded.