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World Blood Donor Day 2012

Every year on June 14, countries worldwide celebrate World Blood Donor Day with events to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank voluntary unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gift.

The donation of blood and blood products saves millions of lives every year, by helping increase life expectancy and the quality of life for patients suffering from life-threatening conditions, and by supporting complex medical and surgical procedures. Blood services must not only make sufficient blood available, but also ensure its quality and safety.

While in 62 countries national blood supplies are entirely based upon voluntary unpaid donations, in 40 other countries the demand greatly exceeds the supply, and patients must rely on family donors or even paid donors. The World Health Organization aims for all countries worldwide to obtain their blood supplies entirely from unpaid donors by 2020.

The theme of the 2012 World Blood Donor Day campaign, "Every blood donor is a hero," focuses on the idea that every person can become a hero simply by giving blood. The theme not only recognises the silent and unsung heroes who save lives every day with their blood donations, it also strongly encourages more people from all over the world to donate blood voluntarily and regularly.

Blood donation in the Netherlands
You can register to donate blood at any time via the Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation, the only organisation in the Netherlands authorised to manage blood donation. Their online registration form is available here, and you can find one of their nationwide donation points here.

However, to avoid disappointment and wasted time, it is wise to determine in advance if you are eligible to donate blood. In principle, anyone in "good health" between the ages of 18 and 64 years old can donate. However, there are many additional criteria one must meet in order to be deemed in "good enough health" to be eligible.

In some instances approval depends on timing, e.g. if you have just had a root canal you have to wait one week before you can donate. In other cases you will not ever be permitted to donate, e.g. if you had a blood transfusion any time after January 1, 1980.

You may run into problems with approval if you:
 have travelled abroad recently
 are using or have recently used certain medications (e.g. antibiotics, painkillers, including aspirin and paracetamol in some cases, Propecia, anti-acne medication such as Roaccutane)
 have recently been vaccinated (depending on the vaccine)
 have, have had, or have been exposed to certain illnesses (e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, epilepsy)

Note that, because of the risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human variant of mad cow disease), if you were in the UK for longer than 6 months between 1980 and 1996 you will not be allowed to donate blood in the Netherlands.

Also note that it was traditionally the policy of Sanquin to reject blood donor applications by homosexual men. In April of this year Prime Minister Rutte's cabinet voted to change the regulations, but in practice gay men may continue to be denied the opportunity to donate, as the policies are still under discussion.

The above information is not intended to be exhaustive. More thorough information is available on the Sanquin website, however much of it is only available in Dutch. If you are enthusiastic about donating blood and are ensure of your eligibility, you can call their blood donor information line at the number below.

Information
 Sanquin website
 Donor information line: 0800 256 33 22 65
 General phone number: 020 512 30 00

Other types of living donations are also possible in the Netherlands, namely kidney, liver, bone marrow, and stem cells. Lung donation does not yet take place in the Netherlands.

Anyone residing in the Netherlands can enter their preferences regarding organ donation via the Donorregister (although the registration form itself is only available in Dutch).

Carly

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Carly Blair

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