Donating blood presents no risk to the donor, if carried out in a safe setting with sterile equipment, and requires less than an hour to give life to another human being.
There are probably tens of thousands people in the country who could be saved through one simple action. As a result of ignorance, misinformation and a lack of encouragement, most people are unwilling to take that action. What it requires is to walk into a blood bank, wait a few minutes for your complete blood count to be printed out after a test, and lie down for some minutes before being served a cup of tea and a few biscuits. At the blood banks, the organisers are desperately seeking blood that is usually in short supply.
At the Fatimid Foundation, for instance, children and young people dependent on regular blood transfusions to survive receive these from whatever blood is available as they lie on reclining chairs, a blood bag hung on an IV pole. Sadly, there are too few blood bags and many have to be turned away.
Donating blood presents no risk to the donor, if the process is carried out in a safe setting with sterile equipment, and requires less than an hour to give life to another human being. Yet, in our country, even our close relatives aren’t willing to donate (blood) because of the myths attached to the process. They fear that they will be rendered ‘weak’ or they will fall sick etc. Siblings do not donate for one another, spouses don’t donate to each other, and those who wish to are discouraged by their near and dear ones.
At a medical centre, a healthy teenage girl who wished to donate, was told they did not take blood from women because they are most often anaemic.
There are other misbeliefs, such as that there are already enough donors out there or that the blood banks only require a particular blood type. In fact, only five percent of our eligible population donates, and certainly all blood types are equally valuable. Just to add to what is already a terrible scenario, in one leading medical centre in Lahore, a healthy, robust teenage girl who wished to donate and had gone in willingly, was told they did not take blood from women because they are most often anaemic.
This, of course, is completely untrue. While many women who do not receive an adequate diet and especially those who have undergone multiple pregnancies are often iron deficient, this is certainly not true of the affluent ladies. No wonder blood donation drives are so often carried out at schools and colleges, including those solely for women.
When I donated blood for the first time, I discovered that my haemoglobin level was a healthy 13.3, and I was perfectly fit to donate. The sense of satisfaction gleaned from the fact that you have been able to offer someone in desperate need a hope of a future far outweighs the slightly unnerving experience of having blood drawn out of your arm. While donating, the centre I was at received at least two emergency calls seeking blood for children who needed it ahead of surgeries but could find no donors.
There needs to be a drive in the country to encourage people to donate. The staff at Fatimid told me their own coffers were literally bare. Therefore, they could not call in their regular patients. We do not know how many patients with thalassemia, cancer, haemophilia, or victims of accidents die simply because there is no blood to save them. A drive to encourage donation by healthy donors must begin. Donating blood is such a simple way to save a life. Surely, it is worth undergoing a tiny prick of sterile needle to give someone else a chance to live.