For those in the medical industry, the possibility of saving someone’s life is very real. For the rest of us, we assume heroes and life savers are left for televisions and the big screens. Not anymore. It’s time we celebrate those everyday heroes that selflessly go above and beyond to make a difference.

The fact is, saving someone’s life may involve sitting and relaxing in comfort and can take less than an hour. Saving a life is making the decision to donate blood.

Why donate?

Current statistics have found that 1 in 3 Australians will require blood at some point in their life. Those are some worrying figures – especially considering that only 1 in 30 people in Australia will choose to donate.

For those who do donate, they have an opportunity to change or save the lives of 3 people, all from one simple donation.

What can you donate?

Donors have a choice of 3 different donations: whole blood, plasma and platelets. Your blood type will help determine which option may be best for you, and it’s important to keep in mind that you need to have donated whole blood in the last two years in order to start donating plasma or platelets.

The process times vary slightly depending on the type of donation you choose: whole blood takes 15 minutes to donate and 45 minutes for the appointment, plasma and platelets take 45 minutes to donate and an hour and a half for the appointment.

How does it work?

Every day, more than 5,000 people make the brave and generous decision to donate blood at Australian Red Cross Blood Service centres. The entire process is very quick and your comfort and safety is first priority of the staff.

Questionnaire: When you arrive, you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire after a receptionist has checked a valid photo ID. In order to ensure the safety of you and any person who receives your blood, the questionnaire will include some personal questions. Please answer truthfully and rest assured this information is confidential.

Interview: Once you have finished completing the questionnaire, a trained member of staff with go through the answers with you and ask a few more questions. A finger prick test is done in order to check your haemoglobin level and blood pressure is determined.

You’re ready to donate: Sit back and relax as you recline on a comfy couch and treat yourself to a stress-free TV watching session. For many, this is a great excuse to unwind after a big day in a friendly and comfortable atmosphere while you’re doing something to help others.

Feel free to chat to staff if you would like to remain distracted, or simply enjoy some uninterrupted ‘you’ time. Don’t worry, the team will keep a close eye on you to make sure you’re doing okay.

Congrats! You’re all done. Stay seated for a while to ensure you’re okay before enjoying some free snacks provided in the kitchen.

Where does it all go?

Before going off to change and save lives, your blood donation is tested in order to ensure the safety of patients. Every donation is checked for red cell antibodies and undergo seven different tests to check for infectious diseases and viruses, including:

HIV (AIDS virus)

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Syphilis (unless being used to produce plasma products)

Human T-lymphotropic Virus (unless being used to produce plasma products)

Malaria (if donor has travelled or lived in a place where this is common)

If anything is found during the testing phase, the donor is notified immediately and given support and counselling.

Who it helps

Donated blood is so versatile that it can be used for 22 medical treatments to help people in need. Here’s where it ends up:

34% goes to those with cancer and blood diseases

19% for other causes of anaemia

18% for surgical patients such as open heart surgery and for burns patients

13% to patients suffering from other medical problems such as stomach, heart and kidney disease

10% goes to orthopaedic patients for joint replacements and fractures

4% obstetrics (pregnant women, new mums and young kids)

2% traumas such as road accidents

I’m scared of needles and/or blood

There are many people out there that can become a little squeamish or anxious when it comes to needles or blood. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t donate. The staff at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service work hard to ensure every donor is as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process. You may be surprised at how their clinic looks as well. Forget about the cold and harsh white doctors’ offices; fitted out with comfy couches, TVs, Wi-Fi and a kitchen, the environment helps put you at ease right away.

Feel free to bring a friend along, or enjoy relaxing music or a good book to keep you distracted if you wish. And remember, this short moment of anxiousness could mean the world to patients who receive your donation. Reward yourself for your bravery and treat yourself afterwards.

Looking to help even further? There are other ways to help such as bone marrow or organ donation.