World Blood Donor Day is celebrated across the globe on June 14 annually. The purpose behind marking the day is to encourage voluntary blood donors and raise awareness about the need for regular blood donations for patients in need.
Historically, our planet has witnessed a number of tragic incidents including natural disasters, terrorism and traffic accidents, which have resulted in the loss of numerous precious lives. In the past, European countries used to wage horrific wars and invasions against each other, resulting in a lot of bloodshed. However, at the same time, many humanity-loving European scientists tried to save lives through blood transfusions.
The first successful blood transfusion involving a human being was performed by French physician Jean-Baptiste Denys in 1667. Later, Dr James Blundell, a British scientist, invented an instrument during the 19th century for directly transfusing blood from a healthy person to a patient.
However, a major breakthrough occurred when an Austrian pathologist, Dr Karl Landsteiner, discovered blood groups in 1900. He succeeded in identifying the three blood groups A, B and O with their respected characteristics. Dr Karl Landsteiner also received many notable awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology, for having discovered the blood group system. Born on June 14, the day was declared World Blood Donor Day to pay tribute to his contributions.
During the First World War, there arose an urgent need for blood donations on a large scale. Thus, blood banks were established to store the donated blood and preserve for later transfusions. Oswald Hope Robertson, a medical researcher and US Army officer, is known for establishing the initial blood banks to serve the wounded soldiers of the British and American armies. Later, a British surgeon named Geoffrey Keynes designed a portable machine that could store blood to ensure that transfusions were carried out more easily. However, the world’s first organised blood bank was established in the Soviet Union.
In Pakistan, blood transfusion services are being provided by many public, private and NGO-run blood banks. A majority of blood banks are also established at hospitals. The Pakistan Hindu Council is one such social charity organisation that carries out blood donation activities regularly. According to media reports, it is estimated that at least 3.2 million bottles of blood are required for Pakistani patients on an annual basis. Unfortunately, just 1.8 million bottles are arranged, which ultimately results in the loss of many lives.
There are many myths and misunderstandings found among our people, which is why they are reluctant in donating blood. Being an MBBS doctor, I would like to categorically denounce the baseless claim that only people who are overweight are eligible to donate blood. In fact, there are three extra bottles of blood stored in a medically-fit human body. That is why every healthy adult person of 16 to 60 years of age can easily donate a bottle of blood every three months. It is highly recommended to have blood-screening tests done before donating.
The process of new blood cells forming in our body, as a result of transfusions, strengthens the body’s immunity against diseases. Donating blood improves our overall health. Similarly, increased level of iron in the blood raises the risk of many serious diseases. Regular donation of blood also reduces the chances of a heart attack by 88 percent. Additionally, a research study disclosed that regular donation of blood increases the life of a person by at least four more years. The process of blood donations also helps decrease the cholesterol level.
Blood donation can be a humble gesture to serve humanity. We must not forget that every religion asks its followers to save human life. Therefore, we must consider donating blood as a religious and social duty. According to medical science, the new blood cells formed due to blood donation freshen up the skin on the face by reducing the effects of old-age. However, in my view, it is actually the blessing of God that is reflected on the faces of those who selflessly serve mankind without expecting any personal advantage in return.
In today’s digital age, it is easier to connect blood donors with patients. In this regard, a number of websites and WhatsApp groups have been set up and are performing very well. Even renowned social media networking site, Facebook, has introduced a feature for Pakistani users to manage blood donation activities more efficiently.
On World Blood Donor Day, various awareness activities such as seminars, conferences and walks were held in every country. The day demands us to play our due role for serving humanity, even if it is donating just one bottle of blood.
The writer is patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.
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