Your blood , liquid gold

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service says that 34% of blood donated goes towards helping cancer patients – but what does that actually mean?

Children undergoing treatment for cancer need blood and blood products such as platelets, cryoprecipitates and immunoglobulins for a variety of reasons. Some forms of cancer can cause internal bleeding, or affect the bone marrow itself, resulting in low blood counts. They may lose blood during surgery, and their body’s ability to produce blood cells is also affected by chemotherapy or radiation.

Without sufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen, children develop anaemia. This causes a range of symptoms including dizziness, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, and can be life threatening. It can also delay treatment, or cause some treatments to be less effective than they otherwise would be.

Without white blood cells to protect the body from disease and germs, children are much more susceptible to infection and illness, at a time when their body is already weakened. They may need time and additional medications to recover before their cancer treatment can continue. They may require additional surgeries to remove infected lines, and then later to reinsert them. Fungal infections may occasionally be so severe they result in loss of a limb, and in some cases it is an illness or infection rather than the cancer itself which takes a child’s life.

Without platelets that help the blood to clot, something as simple as a lost tooth can cause them to bleed out.

After a bone marrow transplant, children often require blood and platelet transfusions every one or two days until their body recovers. It is not unusual for a child to require upwards of 100 blood or platelet transfusions over the course of their treatments, and for many the numbers are even higher than this. When the body’s ability to produce blood cells is compromised by treatment, children need help.

A lot of help.

It takes platelets from several different donors to help keep a child from bleeding, and although plasma and platelet donations can be made as frequently as every 2 weeks, platelets have a shelf life of just 5 days.

Donating blood is quick and simple, and although not everyone is eligible to donate, finding out whether you can is as simple as calling the Australian Red Cross on 13 95 96. They can even give a small injection of local anaesthetic prior to the donation to ensure complete comfort.

Becoming a regular blood donor is a great way of supporting children with cancer. Without blood donors, treatment is difficult or impossible.

The gift of blood truly does save lives.

To become a blood donor

Or call the Australian Red Cross Blood Service on 13 95 96

This post is part of our series in support of Go Gold Australia and Childhood Cancer Awareness month.
  Related Stories