Miguel Zúñiga arrived at Hospital Calderón Guardia in downtown San José on Tuesday morning in a baseball cap, glasses and a short-sleeved collared shirt that exposed his forearms. He was dressed to celebrate a milestone.
Doctors took a donation of blood from Zúñiga, 58, for the 100th time as Costa Rica honored World Blood Donor Day by encouraging donations at hospitals around the capital. Zúñiga has been donating blood for more than three decades.
“The first time I came to donate was because my son needed blood for an operation – that was in 1977,“ Zúñiga said. “After that, I continued coming every three months to help people.“
Patricia Contreras, clinical laboratory chief at the hospital’s blood bank, said World Blood Donor Day hopes to push more people to be like Zúñiga. She said it’s always safer to use blood given by random donors. Blood donated by family members in the middle of a crisis can lead to trouble.
“Many times the patient’s family lies about whether they have consumed alcohol or other drugs recently,“ Contreras said. “This can be detrimental and even dangerous.“
The blood bank at Hospital Calderon Guardia receives 15 to 20 donors on most days. Approximately half are family members of someone in need of a donation.
Hospitals have a list of requirements (see below) that must be followed before one must donate blood. But doctors insist the process is simple and almost completely pain-free, and more importantly a donation can save lives.
HOW TO DONATE BLOOD IN COSTA RICA
-Donors must be between 18 and 65 years old, weigh more than 50 kilograms and be in good health. The most needed blood type are AB negative and O negative.
-A donor needs to prove he or she is a resident of Costa Rica (expats can donate too as long as they have an ID proving their residency).
-Having a cold, taking certain medications or being pregnant will prevent an eligible donor from being able to donate temporarily. People with tattoos done in the previous 12 months or men who have had homosexual relations in the previous year also will not be able to donate.
-People also cannot donate if they have ever injected drugs, are HIV-positive or have AIDS or hepatitis.