Melinda Samuels, Margie Symons, Lizie Ngcobo’s four-year-old daughter Chloé, Roelof Badenhorst. Their names are not known to most South Africans, but they are testament to the power that we all hold in our hands … the ability to save a life.
Melinda, Margie, Chloé and Roelof are among the hundreds of thousands of South Africans whose lives have been saved by something so simple yet powerful beyond words: a blood transfusion.
Thirty years ago, Melinda needed four pints of blood after she haemorrhaged during the birth of her first child. Doctors later told her that without a blood transfusion she would have died.
Margie required the same amount of blood after being admitted to hospital 10 years ago following a serious car crash during which she broke both her legs and seven ribs, causing a haemopneumothorax.
Chloé needed two pints of blood after being born eight weeks premature.
And Roelof needed a blood transfusion following surgery and being placed in an induced coma after being knocked off his motorbike by a drunk driver, which resulted in him breaking his right leg, dislocating his hip and cracking a couple of ribs.
While extolling the skill of their doctors and nurses, all four have no doubt who else to thank: the donors who provided the blood that saved their lives.
“Those weeks in hospital were the worst because I didn’t know if she would pull through. But she did. Today Chloé is a four-year-old girl who enjoys dance, drama and swimming. I thank the blood donors who made it possible for me to see my little girl grow,” says Lizie.
Adds Melinda, “To this day I still believe that when women give birth both mother and child stand with one foot in the grave, and when I think back I’m so thankful to have been given another chance in life by someone who made the effort to donate their blood.”
As South Africa celebrates Blood Donor Month in June, the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) would like to acknowledge the ordinary South Africans who selflessly give the gift of life to strangers.
“South Africa is well acquainted with heroes. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Nkosi Johnson, Natalie du Toit – they are widely feted and acknowledged. But there are scores of other unacknowledged heroes in South Africa, the thousands of ordinary men and women who regularly donate blood, selflessly and without expectation of a reward or recognition,” says Silungile Mlambo, national marketing manager for the SANBS.
“Blood Donor Month, and World Blood Donor Day, which is celebrated globally on 14 June, is for them. It gives us the opportunity to acknowledge their gift and to say thank you. Thank you for saving the life of that mother, thank you for saving the life of that car accident victim, thank you for saving the life of that premature baby. Thank you for giving them a lifetime of memories. Your selflessness is not unrecognised, nor will it ever be forgotten.”
Mlambo says the theme for World Blood Donor Day 2017 is blood donation in emergencies.
While the global campaign is aimed at helping people in emergency situations, such as natural disasters and trauma situations, Mlambo says incidents of trauma make up only a fraction of the demand for blood in South Africa.
“By far the greatest proportion of blood is required in other situations, such as in childbirth and for cancer patients. In South Africa blood shortages occur most often during school holidays and they are predominantly caused by lower collections of blood as a result of schools and universities closing and the demand staying consistent,” says Mlambo.
She called on all South Africans to donate blood.
“So many people in life-threatening situations require blood. Blood is what saved Melinda’s life, so that she could raise and love the baby she had brought into the world. It’s what saved Margie’s and Roelof’s lives, after they suffered complications during major surgery. It saved Chloé’s life after she was born premature. It’s what helps that cancer patient endure and survive treatment.
“One simple action can can make a huge difference. For the donor, it’s a few minutes every 56 days. For the recipient, it’s helping them live so they can create a lifetime of memories. Become a donor, it’s not just blood. It’s saving a nation,” says Mlambo.
To find out more about donating blood and to locate your nearest SANBS donor centre, visit sanbs.org.za or call 0800 11 90 31.