My neighbour’s son was last week involved in a gruesome accident but was among the lucky few survivors that were rushed to hospital for treatment. But that is not to say that all was well. The doctors explained to Ntirenganya and his relatives that he had lost a lot of blood and needed a transfusion.
“What is your blood group?,” they asked, leaving both the patient and his family dumb because none knew the right answer.
Meaning of blood group
Blood type or blood group is a medical term which describes the type of blood a person has. It is a classification of blood based on the presence or absence of inherited antigenic (immunity systems) substances in the red blood cells (RBCs).
According to research, blood types predict whether a serious reaction will occur in a blood transfusion. This reaction is called a “haemolytic reaction”. It may destroy red blood cells, and cause renal failure. Shock is likely to occur, and death is a possibility.
For instance when a blood transfusion or an organ transplant takes place, it is vital to know the blood types of the donor (who gives blood) and the receiver (who needs blood).
Blood types are based on the antigens you receive from your parents. You can either have A, B, both A and B or neither, which result in types A, B, AB and O, respectively.
Below, we give you reasons why it is important to know which group you belong to.
During a blood transfusion, an individual must receive a blood type that is compartible with theirs if the donated blood will ever be accepted.
“Ensuring that the antigens of the donor’s red blood cells match those of the individual receiving the transfusion is essential because the immune system will attack any donor red blood cells that contain antigens that are different from its own,” says Dr. Osee Sebatunzi, the director of Kibagabaga Hospital,
To ensure a match, small samples of the recipient’s blood and the donor’s blood are mixed together in a process known as “cross–matching.” In an emergency, type O negative red blood cells may be given to anyone, especially if the situation is life–threatening or if the matching blood type is in short supply.
Quite similarly, your blood group determines whether you can receive a donor organ.
“For instance kidneys from donors in blood group O can be given to anyone in other blood groups, and patients in blood group AB can receive kidneys from donors in any other blood group,” says Albert Munezero, a technician with Ubuzima clinical laboratory in Kabeza, a Kigali city outskirt.
If you are planning to donate blood, it is important to know your blood group to ensure that if you are given a transfusion; your body doesn’t make antibodies to attack the donor blood.
“For instance type AB individuals can only give blood to other AB individuals, but can receive blood of any type,”
Fertility and Pregnancy
A study carried out early this year on more than 560 women undertaking fertility treatment by researchers at the Einstein College, New York, U.S, showed that those with blood type O were up to twice as likely to have a lower egg count and poorer egg quality, which could affect the chances of conceiving.
Edward Nejat, the lead researcher, pointed out those women with blood group A seemed to be better protected against their egg counts falling over time.
“It is important to know the blood group of a first time pregnant woman before hand, so that they are quickly put on transfusion incase of blood loss through bleeding when giving birth,” says Dr. Sebatunzi.
Blood group vs diseases
Quoting a study, Munezero, says blood group A, B and AB individuals are more at risk of heart disease than individuals belonging to blood group O. Pointing out that group AB individuals stand about 20% chance of suffering heart disease while individuals in blood groups B and A have 10% and 5% respectively.
He adds that group O individuals are less likely to suffer from heart disease as they are said to possess a substance that assists blood flow and reduces clotting.
Munezero however warns that individuals, regardless of whether they are said to be “safer” are advised to lead a healthy lifestyle. Eating right and exercising are important in reducing one’s risk to heart disease.
Group O more prone to diabetes
Diabetes is largely a lifestyle disease, doctors say. A combination of poor feeding habits coupled with a sedentary lifestyle among others put one at risk. However, Munezero says that research shows that group O- and A+ are more predisposed to diabetes mellitus.
Malaria, cholera, stomach ulcers
What distinguishes each type are their antigens (defence systems) on the surface of the red blood cells. Each blood group type has evolved to provide defences against lethal diseases.
However, according to Alfred Gatabarwa, a general practitioner with Abbey Family Clinic, Remera, each (blood group) has its own weaknesses, too. For instance people with type O blood are at less risk of dying from malaria than people with other blood groups. But they are more vulnerable to cholera and stomach ulcers caused by viruses and bacteria.
Group O individuals are more susceptible to stomach cancers and stomach ulcers while A, B and AB individuals are more susceptible to pancreatic cancer, according to medics.
Readers share their views about blood groups
The doctor sometime back told us that one may be vulnerable to certain diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure depending on their blood type. As a result, one can know what to eat or drink, and what to avoid. That advice compelled me to find out my bllod group.
It is good to know your blood group and that of your intended marriage partner. I’m told certian types are not compartible making it almost impossible to have children. Of course the Ministry of Health needs to keep reminding the public about the importance of knowing one’s blood group.
I have been donating blood since 2005 so I know my blood group. I enjoy donating blood because it is one way of helping people who are urgently in need of blood. I would therefore encourage everyone to do the same because you get to know your blood group but also save an anaemic person.
I put it upon myself to find out my blood group because it is very helpful when you are sick.
Sometimes you need a blood donor and it makes it much faster to be helped by the doctors if you know it. One risks dying if they have been involved in an accident but cannot say what blood type they have.
I don’t know my blood group and I find no reason to bother myself about that. How come when we have malaria or any other disease, the doctors treat us without asking us for our group? I will find out my type of blood when there is an emergency.
Much as I have never bothered to find out what my blood group is, I know it is a good thing to do. I have a friend who is always telling me the advantages of knowing one’s blood group and very soon I should get that out of the way.
COMPILED BY DENNIS AGABA