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Amazing facts about the human blood

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We all know blood as that red fluid that comes out of our body when we have a cut or an injury. But what do we really know about our blood?

The human blood is a highly specialized, constantly circulating tissue that delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells and transports wastes such as ammonia and carbon dioxide away from those cells. Blood is conducted through blood vessels (arteries, veins, capillaries and lymphatics). It is about 7% of your overall body weight and your body carries about 6 litres of blood. Not all blood is red. Some animals like crabs have blue blood. The four most important components of the human blood are red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), platelets (thrombocytes) and plasma.


The red blood cells normally make up 40-50% of total blood volume. They transport oxygen from the lungs to all the living tissues of the body and carry away CO2 (carbon dioxide). These cells are produced continuously in our bone marrow from stem cells. Red cells remain viable for only about 4 months before they are removed from the blood and their components recycled in the spleen. People that are anaemic generally have a deficiency in red cells and subsequently feel fatigued due to shortage of oxygen.

White blood cells vary in types and numbers. It makes up about 1% of blood volume in healthy people. Most are produced in our bone marrow from the same kind of stem cells that produce the red blood cells and they are usually active in mounting immune responses to infectious diseases and other foreign invaders.


Blood platelets are cell fragments that work with blood clotting chemicals at the site of wounds. They do this by adhering to the walls of blood vessels and releasing coagulating chemicals that cause clots to form. 13 different blood clotting factors, in addition to platelets, need to interact for clotting to occur.

Plasma is a relatively clear yellow tinted liquid. It is composed of water (about 90%), fat, protein and salt solution which carry the red cells, white cells and platelets. Normally 55% of our blood’s volume is made up of plasma. Plasma also contains blood clotting factors, sugars, lipids, vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins. Some of the molecules found in the plasma have more specialized functions e.g. hormones act as long distance signals.

Although all human blood is red and have relatively the same composition, not all human blood is actually the same. There are different types of blood and different blood grouping systems. The most important blood grouping system is the ABO system, which was discovered in 1900 by Austrian biologist Karl Landsteiner. It is the classification of human blood based on the inherited properties of the red blood cells as determined by the presence or absence of antigens A and B. Antigens are foreign substances that induce immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins produced in response to a specific antigen. It usually acts specifically against the foreign substance in an immune response.

Antigens A and B are usually carried on the surface of the red cells depending on the blood type. Blood group A typically have type A antigens on the surface of their red cells while blood group B have type B antigens on the surface of their red cells. If type B blood is transfused into type A, the red cells in the injected blood (type B) will be destroyed by the antibodies in the recipient’s blood. The anti-B antibodies of type A blood will recognize it as alien and burst the introduced red cells in order to cleanse the blood of the foreign substance. In the same way type A red cells will be destroyed if it is injected into a person with type B blood.

People with blood group O have neither A antigens nor B antigens on their red cells and thus are universal donors but they have antibodies A and B in their blood (plasma) so they can only receive blood from people with the same blood group (O). Individuals with blood group AB usually have antigens A and B and so they are universal recipients meaning they would not elicit any immune response against blood from blood group A, B, AB and O donors but they can only donate blood to individuals with the same blood group AB. The most common cause of death from a blood transfusion is an error in which an incompatible type of ABO blood is transfused.

Another important blood grouping system that is used to determine the compatibility of transfusion donors and recipients is the Rh blood group system. Individuals can either be positive (+) or negative (-) for the Rh blood group. Individuals with Rh+ blood group can receive blood from Rh+ or Rh- blood donors whereas individuals with Rh- blood group can only receive blood from Rh- blood donors. In emergencies, Rh- blood types are generally used for blood transfusion when there is no time to check the Rh compatibility of the blood transfusion recipient.

I hope that you’ve been able learn something new and amazing about that red substance in our human bodies called blood.

The Health Benefits of Blood Donation

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Did you know that the more you donate blood, the healthier you become? Amazing right? Studies have shown that donating blood is not only beneficial to the recipient but it is also beneficial to the donor. Donating blood can actually help improve the health of the donor!

In Nigeria, the demand for blood products far outweighs the supply. Every day, people die from the unavailability of blood products for blood transfusion or the inability to get blood products on time. One of the leading causes of maternal deaths in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan African countries is severe bleeding during or shortly after pregnancy. These innocent lives do not have to be lost if you and I commit to saving them by donating our blood regularly. Human blood cannot be manufactured and the only way to help those who need it is by donating blood. Blood transfusion is very important when treating patients suffering from severe anemia, cancer, bleeding disorders and many other diseases.

”A single pint of blood donated can save up to three lives”

A pint of blood can be separated into its various components to meet the transfusion demand of the patients in need. The components can be used for various purposes and by different recipients.

Donating blood is also beneficial to the donor. A study done years ago showed that people who volunteered for altruistic reasons had a significantly reduced risk of mortality of 4 years later than those who volunteered for themselves alone (an example is in the case of a paid donor). Regular blood donations help to balance iron levels in the body, especially in males. This helps the body to prevent excessive iron build up which can result in oxidative stress and organ damage. This oxidative damage is one of the major causes of heart attacks, strokes and accelerated ageing. The prevention of excessive iron build up also means lesser risk for cancer, as iron is essential for the growth of cancerous cells.

Other health benefits include better flow of blood in the body and free health checkup/screening for the donor. Also, when blood is regularly replenished, there is a high tendency for blood flow to be better. Before blood is gotten from a donor, a basic health checkup is usually carried out on the donor. Donating your blood also helps you burn calories and lose weight but keep in mind that blood is safely donated not more than once every 2 or 3 months. Females can donate blood 3 times a year while males sometimes can donate up to 4 times a year. Blood donation is safe and harmless and the donor should be at least 18 years old and weigh at least 50 kg.

The health benefits of blood donation are numerous and so we should all be regular voluntary blood donors. Like they say, super heroes do not all wear capes, some are just regular people like you and I saving lives one pint at a time!

Willing to join Redbank’s voluntary donor group? Get started here goo.gl/forms/LFyJZHkb7yKxQTru2

Why Nigerian Hospitals need to start using Electronic Medical Records

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We now live in a digital age and our lives have been transformed by technology. In the past, the ability to get any information was usually tedious but now, information is just one click away. Nigeria, though still a developing country has not been left out in this technologically advanced world. Technology has been able to permeate various sectors of the Nigerian economy but unfortunately, the Nigerian health sector has been found wanting. A lot of hospitals and health-affiliated parastatals still operate manually.

An Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a digital application that enables hospitals to store patients’ records electronically. Most Nigerian hospitals still store patients’ information manually using traditional paper records. There are so many downsides to the use of paper records that electronic records have been able to solve.

With EMRs, information is easily accessible anytime and anywhere offline and/or online and since it’s a more concise way of keeping records, doctors can make well-informed treatment decisions that are free of human error from the misinterpretation of hand written records, etc.

EMRs provide patients with quick access to a more coordinated and efficient patient-centered health system. In the typical Nigerian hospital setting, it takes a long time from when a patient arrives the hospital, till when the patient is actually attended to. But EMRs help to reduce all that time wasting and inefficiency by simplifying the work flow in hospitals and providing easy access to a patient’s record, thereby saving time and energy.

By adopting EMRs, accurate and up-to-date information about a patient is available at any point of his/her continuum of care. For instance, when a patient visits another part of the country or even world, we all know the long process it’ll take to be able get his/her medical history or background most especially in an emergency. This process is even longer if there is a need to share the patient’s old paper medical records with the health care provider in the new location. First, there is the sometimes arduous process of locating the file then the unnecessary protocols that must be followed before the information is sent. Not leaving out the long wait before the document is actually received. If it’s in an emergency situation, the effects could be deleterious. Sometimes a patient’s account alone is not sufficient either for regular medical encounters or emergency situations as very critical information could be left out by the patient. Using an EMR provides an easy means for the patients’ records to be transferred between health care providers safely and quickly.

                                               

Electronic Medical Records are better secured. Another advantage of adopting electronic records is that it ensures the privacy and security of the patients’ data. It further secures the sharing of a patient’s records with other clinicians so the patient doesn’t have to worry about the safety of his/her medical records. We’ve heard of cases and emergency situations where a patient’s file could not be located either due to the carelessness of the nurse, hospital medical records staff and/or even doctors. Neither does a patient have to worry about his/her records getting into the wrong hands as is very possible and common with paper records.

EMRs also help to reduce cost by reducing the inadvertent repetition and duplication of laboratory tests and decreasing paperwork. It also enables safer and more reliable prescription of medication.

EMRs help to reduce stress. Less stress means that the work-leisure balance of health professionals is also improved. This in turn increases their productivity.

The increased uptake and use of EMRs in the Nigerian healthcare system would go a long way in improving the efficiency of health care providers in delivering the best patient centered care possible.