Blood donors help Finland prepare for major accidents and disasters

At the moment, only 3.5% of Finns donate blood. Blood donors are a key part of disaster preparedness, as they allow the Blood Service to deliver blood products to hospitals.

“Hospitals need blood products constantly for accident victims, women giving birth, cancer patients and premature babies”, Jarkko Ihalainen, the Blood Service’s Medical Director, explains.

One accident victim may need up to dozens of litres of blood products. Thus, even a single accident can have a significant impact on one hospital’s blood stock levels. Take for example Ann-Marie Niemelä, who was involved in a serious motorcycle accident and treated with a large amount of different blood products due to major bleeding.

“There is no way I would have survived the accident without the help of blood donors. I am alive today thanks to the blood donors”, Niemelä says.

Up to 120 donors are needed to help one patient

Donated blood is divided into three parts, and the patient is given exactly the part of the blood that they need. One platelet product requires the blood of four donors of the same blood group, meaning that Ann-Marie Niemelä alone was treated with platelets donated by 96 individuals. When you add the red blood cell products, more than 120 volunteers were needed to help Niemelä.

Niemelä was so impressed by the help she received that, having recovered from the accident, she wanted to work in the health care sector, and she now works as an operating room nurse. Niemelä has been an active blood donor. In her words, donating blood helps her repay her “debt” to the donors who saved her life, and it also means that she can help make sure there is enough blood available to those who need it.

“I definitely encourage others to donate blood, if they can. By donating blood, you can give the most valuable gift possible”, Ann-Marie concludes.

More donors are needed: blood stock levels rest on the shoulders of just 3.5% of Finns

The work of the Blood Service is a key component of Finland’s 24/7 preparedness for major accidents and disasters, and almost every Finn aged 18–70 can contribute to the preparedness efforts. About 800 blood donors are needed every weekday. However, at the moment only 3.5% of Finns donate blood.

The Blood Service manufactures the blood products needed in hospitals in Finland from donated blood and performs laboratory tests concerning the transplantation of blood, organs and stem cells for hospitals. The Blood Service is the only operator in its field, so its importance for hospitals – and ultimately for Finnish patients – cannot be overstated.

Further reading: Ann-Marie Niemelä’s story on the Blood Service’s website (in Finnish)