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Visit to Siegburg : The German Red Cross needs 26,000 blood donors because of coronavirus

Visit to Siegburg : The German Red Cross needs 26,000 blood donors because of coronavirus

The coronavirus crisis is responsible for a shortfall of thousands of blood donors for German Red Cross. One of the reasons is that no donation centres are currently being set up at universities and companies. This article describes a visit to a blood donation centre in Siegburg.

Giving blood saves lives – this statement takes on a new meaning in the coronavirus crisis, not because more blood is needed, but because there are fewer donors. "Corporate and university blood donations have completely disappeared," says Birgit Baust, who is the public relations officer at the German Red Cross (DRK) western blood donor service. She plans blood donation appointments about one year in advance.

In contrast to local authorities, who helped the DRK out with larger rooms at short notice in order to comply with the distance regulations, companies and universities currently do not allow outsiders to enter their rooms. Moreover, many of their employees work from home and "we have lost 26,000 donors as a result. This has been hard on us", explains Baust. However, the willingness of people to donate remains undiminished. "At the beginning of the crisis, we even had more than was required by the hospitals," says Baust, in view of the many postponed operations. However, when things restarted in June, the beginning of the holiday season, combined with the loss of company donations, had a big impact.


Supply shortfalls during the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has had a long-lasting effect on blood donations and has caused problems in the supply of blood to patients. According to the German Red Cross, there is currently a shortage of blood across all blood groups, but especially group 0. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 75 inclusive can donate blood: men six times a year and women four times per year. The German Red Cross guarantees a very high level of protection for blood donors and recipients. Firstly, body temperature, pulse, blood pressure and blood colour are checked and subsequently, the blood is checked for infectious diseases in the laboratory of the blood donation service.

Every blood donor receives a blood donor card with his blood group. Donation takes about five to ten minutes and afterwards there is a snack, currently a lunch package, because when you donate blood you lose 600 calories. Donor appointments can be made under www.blutspende.jetzt.

"In Germany, 15,000 blood reserves are needed every day, and in the administrative districts of Cologne and Düsseldorf, 700 to 900 a day are required," says the German Red Cross employee, who herself also does voluntary work for the organisation. Cancer patients in particular, but also cardiovascular patients, depend on blood reserves. "Whoever donates blood saves lives three times", says Baust, who explains the three components that are needed: Blood plasma has the longest shelf life and can also be frozen, thrombocytes (blood platelets) only last five days, and red blood cells (erythrocytes) last 42 days. Therefore, regular replenishment of stocks is needed.

Donations of blood group 0 rhesus positive and negative are particularly urgently needed. "This allows me to donate blood to everyone, but I only tolerate blood group 0 myself," says Baust about her own blood group. Donating blood in coronavirus times is similar to the usual procedure, with the difference that the donors' temperature is measured without contact before entering the donor room. 37.5 degrees is the threshold value above which you are sent back home.

During the donation, which begins with a small prick on the ear to check the haemoglobin level, a face covering must be worn. The biggest difference to usual – and at the same time an improvement – is having to make a prior appointment. "Last time I waited for three hours," says Klara Oberbörsch from Siegburg. The 31-year-old is donating for the third time at the Alleestraße grammar school and is pleased that she only had to invest one hour of her time.

Wolfgang Wegner also thinks this is a good idea. The sporty 75-year-old from Königswinter is donating blood for the 125th time. He donates every three months, and does so for his own health as well. "I feel great afterwards," says the young-at-heart racing cyclist, who regrets that 76 is the end of donating for him. "In addition to athletes, donating blood is also good for patients with high blood pressure," confirms Baust, and she tells of studies that show that blood pressure can be lowered as a result. Athletes obtain an improvement in their performance by giving blood.

The German Red Cross staff member regrets that this finding has not yet permeated sports clubs and been recognised by younger people. "In addition, everyone receives a free health check," says Baust, referring to the prior blood test and the doctor's consultation. In addition to the doctor, there are always full-time and voluntary staff working for the good. "To do something good" is also the motivation of Klaus from Siegburg. The 42-year-old is currently on short-time working hours and would like to make good use of his time. "I'll gladly do it again," he says.

(Original text, Inga Sprünken; translation, John Chandler)