Why Donate Blood? An Interview

Many people want to help others in meaningful ways, but perhaps it is difficult to know how. Blood donation is a lifesaving decision that is becoming more popular and has achieved great success over the years due to medical improvements. UNYA volunteers from Aalborg had an interview with Bitten Aagaard, the medical professional responsible for the Blood Bank in Aalborg about the topic. For the World Blood Donor day, we would like to share information about blood donation and encourage more people to donate blood.

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What is it like to donate blood?

Why should I donate?

According to Bitten, there are two benefits. “One of them is mental, because you actually have the resources to help someone else. There is an altruistic element to it that makes you feel good. The other benefit, here in our blood bank […], is that you get your blood pressure checked every time. That is not decided by law, but it’s something we want to do for our donors. There are also other tests taken, such as the virus’ hepatitis B, C and HIV tests, and we also check hemoglobin levels every time a donor comes here. […] However, I think what makes donors come back […] is the mental part of it. It feels good to help someone else without necessarily getting paid back.”

“[…] you have the resources to help someone else.” – Bitten Aagaard

When can I become a donor?

To become a donor, you must register at https://bloddonor.dk/, then you will receive an email from your local blood donor asking to come for tests. Otherwise, for the Blood bank in Aalborg, someone who wants to become a donor can go to the secretariat and register as a donor. Depending on the waiting list and on the region, you can wait up to six months before donating your blood.

Can I donate blood?

According to Bitten Aagaard, anyone over eighteen years old can be a blood donor. If you are seventeen years old, you must present an authorization from a parent. Also, the donor must be over 50 kg, otherwise it could be a danger for him to donate such an amount of blood. On top of that, the donor must be in a healthy condition and there are specific criteria that defines the health of someone.

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Where blood donations take place in Aalborg.

How much blood is donated?

There are different types of blood donations that the donor can chose. The two types most commonly used are full blood and plasma donations. Thefull blood donation is where the donor gives 460 ml of pure blood. The other one is a plasma donation, where 600 ml of pure plasma is donated. For the full blood donation, thirteen percent of blood is taken for donation.

What is a plasma donation?

Plasma is a clear, straw-colored liquid portion of the blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed[1]. Bitten explains the plasma donation: “[…] in the plasma donation, […] you fill out the same questionnaire, you go to the donation room and the needle will be put in your arm, and then draw out a full blood donation. The blood will centrifugate and the plasma will be at the top and the cells at the bottom. Then the plasma will be kept out and the rest of the cells will return to the donor. That means we only take the plasma, that’s what we need, and the donor gets the cells back. That means that the donor doesn’t have to have a quarantine, which is a break from the donation as if the donor donated a full blood.” Furthermore, you only need a two-week break between your plasma donations, whereas a full blood will need three month intervals.

Where can I donate blood?

Once you have received an appointment, you go to your local blood bank where a nurse will draw your blood that will be used for another patient in need. There are also blood buses, circulating all around the country in which you can also donate blood.

Did you know?

  • The need for plasma donations is raising quicker than the need for full blood donations.
  • The blood type O negative is universal. It can be transfused to any patient in need of a blood transfusion.
  • If you can’t donate blood, you can recruit.
  • If you have been on holidays outside the northern region, you might have to wait weeks or even months before you will be allowed to donate blood. This is due to your exposure to dangerous pathogens such as malaria, dengue fever etc.
  • According to the interviewed doctor, per year, 10 out of the 20 000 donations get nerve injuries caused by the needle insertion, which heal after several months.
  • During a plasma donation, there is a liquid called citrate that is put in your blood to prevent coagulation.
  • In Denmark, The clinicians have reduced the amount of issues with red components since 2008.
  • Plasma can be used to make medicine (immune globulins and albumin).
  • To be a donor, you must speak and understand Danish, live in Scandinavia for 1 year and have a Danish social security number

[1]https://www.donatingplasma.org/donation/what-is-plasma

 

Interviews conducted by: Mathilde Thibeault-Jacobsen and Erin Cara Jalk

Article written by: Mathilde Thibeault-Jacobsen

Interviewee: Bitten Aagaard

Article edited by: Michaela Higgins Sørensen

On 5 Continents with the UN: Life as a UN Couple

What do the people in the United Nations actually do? How does it feel to be a UN diplomat? What is the life of a UN couple and their family like? These were the questions the event on Thursday, the 31st of May covered. Finn Reske-Nielsen, along with his wife, Bodil Kundsen shared the stage and their interesting life story with their audience. With over 35 years of experience in working for the UN in Switzerland, Zambia, Namibia, Timor-Lest, Paupa New Guinea, the United States, and Laos, Finn Reske-Nielsen lead an eventful career that left an impactful mark on the countries he worked in, as did his wife, Bodil Kundsen. 

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             The first posting the couple had was in Zambia. With a post-graduate degree in Political Science and Public Administration from Aarhus University, Nielsen recalled, “I walked into the office in Geneva and thought I’d be getting a post somewhere like Malaysia due to the refugee crisis that was going on there at the time, however, they told me I was going to Zambia. I was too embarrassed to ask where Zambia was at the time, however, I said yes”. Finn and Bodil spent 2 years in Zambia where Finn worked at the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and then moved to Switzerland where he also held a position at the UNHCR. Bodil explained that it was quite the shock to move back to a first world country such as Switzerland where they had ‘everything the average person needed and more’, whereas in Zambia it was difficult to come across daily household products such as soap.  

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           Bodil further elaborated that once they were done with their first two posts, they didn’t want to go back to Denmark as she said, “we hadn’t had enough and didn’t want to go back home just yet”. They carried on to spend over two decades more abroad, away from home. This didn’t come without its challenges as Bodil explained that they had to do everything themselves when they moved, from finding accommodation to moving all their furniture. In Timor-Lest this was a particularly challenging task as at the time the country had just gone through a significant amount of political upheaval after independence. “Trying to find accommodation in a country that had basically just burnt down was a challenge, however we managed”, stated Bodil, “and we found a nice small house. It had some windows missing, its roof was also ruined and there were a lot of mosquitos. I remember we had a table with wheels that we could roll from one end of the house to the other with just one push! Over time we got to know some people and managed to buy back the original parts the house was missing and fixed it up”, which got a chuckle of disbelief out of the audience.  

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           While Finn was working in the assessment mission in Timor-Leste where he assisted in planning the governance sector of the new mission, Bodil found work in teaching as she has a background in education. Bodil found work in nearly all the countries they lived in, and even became the headmaster of an international school in Namibia that she founded, however with the nature of Finn’s career, he was transferred frequently. “Every time I handed in my CV to a new school, they asked me why I had quit my previous job, and every time I had the same answer: my husband was transferred!”, Bodil said laughing.

         Despite being uprooted time and again, Bodil found work wherever she went, and was even the prime minister of education for two days in Laos. Bodil and Finn viewed moving around as a way of expanding one’s mind as Bodil said, “we didn’t want to live in a small box in Denmark, we wanted to go out and explore the world. I encourage everyone to go out and explore the world. Even if your job doesn’t have anything to do with your thesis, take the opportunity, you will learn and develop so much more”.

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        Bodil pointed out that “many people view the diplomatic life as some luxurious experience where one would live in a mansion, have servants and drink gin and tonics all afternoon, but the reality is that you have to work really hard every day. It is not easy, you are thousands of kilometres away from home and you have to start from scratch every time you go somewhere”. Finn also shared that the devastation in some countries is quite harsh, “we have seen the natural and man-made disasters affect the most vulnerable first hand, and the most vulnerable are the poorest people every time”. Working in Namibia was particularly harsh as at the time it was under Apartheid rule where white people earned $15,000 on average per year, and black people earned $63 per year. The schooling systems were also segregated, and Finn and Bodil had children that had to go to catholic school where they were hit when they misbehaved.

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        There were many challenges through their journey, but both Finn and Bodil had highly impactful and inspiring careers. They truly broadened their minds and enriched their lives, and the lives of others, through their work. The most important thing to take away from this event was that you shouldn’t be afraid to go work abroad as it is a highly rewarding experience, however challenging it might be.  

Written by: Michaela Higgins Sørensen

Edited by: Dominika Floriánová