Insights from a self-confessed science nerd
    with Lauren Donley
    Welcome to your regular column on the science of human beings… and being human. Brought to you by Lauren, an unashamed science nerd who never misses an opportunity to share a story about bodily functions.

    In the lead up to Easter, I was contemplating what I could share on the theme of Volunteering and Community. Fortuitously, the answer came in the form of a calendar reminder for a blood donation appointment.

    I’ve been donating blood on and off for 20 years and my experience has always been a very positive one. In my case, O positive (groan!). So, while sitting in the recovery area, enjoying my party pies and Nippy’s iced coffee, I found some fun facts on the Australian Red Cross LifeBlood service.

    At the very least, I hope you find these topics just a little bit fascinating. Or perhaps you might even be motivated to roll up your sleeve and give blood donation a go!

    Turning the negative into a positive

    To recap, your blood type is a combination of two systems – your ABO blood type (A, B, AB and O) and your Rh blood type (positive or negative). This means there are eight possible blood type combinations. In Australia, just over two-thirds of people are either O positive or A positive. Negative blood types are much less common. 

    Interestingly though, a recent study by Lifeblood of 1.8 million people showed that blood types in Australia are becoming even more ‘positive’, a trend that reflects immigration patterns and our changing population.

    In the mid-1990s, blood donation data estimated that 19% of the Australian population had a negative blood type, including 9% who were O negative. Fast-forward 25 years to the present day and the rate of negative blood types has declined to 14%. More significantly, just 6.5% of the population are O negative – that’s fewer than one in 15 people.

    But why is this group particularly significant? O negative is also known as the ‘universal’ blood type because it can be given to anyone who needs a blood transfusion, regardless of their blood type. For this reason, O negative blood is stocked in ambulances and rescue helicopters, and it’s often used in emergency situations when a transfusion recipient’s blood type is unknown.

    In short, the natural pool of donors for this critical blood type is shrinking. But there’s no need to panic just yet – researchers are well across this conundrum, and they are working on a range of solutions to maintain supply. 

    Warm and fuzzy feelings

    To be honest, thoughts of volunteering and community never crossed my mind when donating blood for the first time. A mobile donation clinic was visiting my university and it was a convenient excuse to skip afternoon lectures on a sunny day.

    Since then, I’ve been enticed back time and again by the warmth and appreciation of the LifeBlood staff, and by the uplifting stories of regular people who unexpectedly found themselves in need of a blood transfusion.

    As it turns out, these warm and fuzzy feelings are not entirely down to chance. LifeBlood is one of the only blood donation services in the world with a Donor Research team dedicated to attracting new and repeat donors.

    So, if you’re still on the fence about donating blood, you might find it reassuring to know that every step in the blood donation journey has been studied for your comfort and convenience – from the communications you receive before and after, right down to the funky elastic bandage that gets wrapped around your arm when the deed is done.

    And if that hasn’t won you over, never underestimate the power of a party pie and Nippy’s flavoured milk. 

    For more information, or to book an appointment, go to: 

    Human Interest
    Human Interest
    Welcome to your regular column on the science of human beings…and being human. Brought to you by Lauren Donley, an unashamed science nerd who never misses an opportunity to share a story about bodily functions. Please note that this article is for general interest and is not a replacement for medical care. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please contact your doctor.

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