Share life, give blood

The World Blood Donor Day was celebrated on June 14 to encourage, acknowledge and thank the voluntary blood donors

Share life, give blood

It was a horrid time for Bhatti (name changed), when his father was admitted for a surgical procedure. The hospital administration told him to arrange at least three bags of B-positive blood group from a blood bank since the hospital itself had no arrangement for blood collection and storage.

Bhatti called and visited a number of blood banks in the city. Most of the blood banks asked for three healthy donors to compensate and replace the blood.

He immediately donated a bag as a replacement for one but was unable to find more donors.

Finding two more donors was an uphill task for him as he was new to the city. Finally, his landlord’s son and a technician working in the hospital donated blood to ease his misery.

Siddiqui, a manager at a local bank, donate blood frequently. He generally donates blood after every two to three months. This, for a male, is the time required to replace the blood that has already been donated.

This has earned him acquaintance with like-minded blood donors who call one another for such donations, especially in emergencies. He feels proud in contributing to save lives.

Blood is composed of two distinct parts, the first one comprising 55 percent of the blood, is plasma which is the fluid part and is composed mainly of water (90 percent) and dissolved gases, ions and proteins. The other 45 percent part of blood is the cellular component which includes red blood cells (the haem or iron part used by blood for transporting and circulating oxygen to different body parts) and white blood cells (important part of your body immunity and defence mechanism which fights against various pathogens) and platelets (help us to prevent bleeding after an injury by forming a plug).

Since platelets, plasma and RBCs are also required individually in some diseases, syndromes and medical conditions, there is a popular saying that a pint of donated blood has the potential to save three lives.

An average adult is believed to have 4.5 to 5.5 liters of blood which is roughly about 10 pints. When you donate a pint of blood, complete repletion takes place in about two to three months. The repletion of plasma take place within a day and of platelets within a couple of days; the RBCs take from six weeks to two months to replete.

If one wants to voluntarily donate blood, it is a completely free procedure. But if you have brought in a volunteer to donate blood in a blood bank for your patient then you are likely to pay charges for the process and equipment used which is generally in the range of almost free to Rs 5,000. The cost is borne by the recipient or his/ her family.

Most blood banks and hospitals charge in the Rs 2,000-Rs 3,500 range. A mega unit of platelets costs between Rs 15,000-Rs 30,000 based, unofficially, on demand. It may require four donors. The requirement and availability of mega units of platelets become a significant concern during the dengue season which has become an annual feature in Pakistan.

The whole blood donation is almost an hour long. The time required to donate a pint of blood is roughly 10-15 minutes, but you may be required to wait 15 minutes subsequently, relaxing on the bed to ensure that none of the posible complications has occurred.

The possible symptoms following blood donation include local bruising, pain, weakness and dizziness that may occur rarely and with very low severity. Some people may develop a combination of these. It is recommended to drink an additional l 4 glasses of water after donating blood and consume an iron-rich diet.

A person who is hemophobic (having fear of blood) or trypanophobic (having extreme fear of medical procedures, syringes and injections), have medical conditions like jaundice, hepatitis, renal issues or certain blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma, harbour STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), AIDS, is young enough to not give consent for procedure, is an alcoholic or may have lost considerable weight due to unidentified factors in the last few months, is generally considered ineligible to donate blood.

There are four main blood groups denoted by A, B, AB and O which is generally dependent upon the genes that we inherit. These four groups can be rhesus positive or rhesus negative. A person should not be transfused with any blood from another group, unless s/he may have the same antigen.

Compatibility is highly critical. For instance, a person with A-positive blood must not be transfused with B-positive blood and one with B-negative must not be transfused with B-positive blood group. There are some exceptions when it comes to AB blood group.

AB+ blood group is known as a universal recipient since a person having AB+ blood group can be transfused with all blood groups, although same blood group is preferable. Conversely, people with blood group O-negative can donate blood to every other person, thus, the O-negative blood group is known as a universal donor.

The awareness whether a person is of rhesus-positive or -negative type becomes critical in case those pregnant females who are rhesus-negative and their developing baby is rhesus-positive. In that case, antibodies develop within the mother which might attack the developing baby. This is especially of significance in the subsequent pregnancies.

Treatments are available for such instances for which your healthcare provider asks for your blood group during prenatal visits. Some very rare blood groups also exist. Very few people in the world have a unique blood group namely Bombay blood group. It is extremely rare and is found only in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran. Yet another rare blood group is Golden Blood group.

Globally, O-poitive is the most prevalent blood group. In Pakistan, B-positive is the most common blood type.

Plasma, platelets, whole blood and red blood cells are the four elements that can be transfused to a recipient. There are certain conditions that require blood transfusions or readily available blood pint in hand, in case of emergencies. Such diseases include blood disorders like anemia, sickle cell disease, thalassemia and haemophilia, all major surgeries, deficiency in body’s haemoglobin, and deficiency in platelets secondary to different diseases or blood loss following an accident.

Recently, due to the lockdown following the coronavirus scare, there was decrease in blood donations. Appeals were therefore made by blood banks and health centres, especially those looking after the thalassemia and haemophilia patients.

“Share life, Give Blood” is the global theme for this year’s World Blood Donor Day that was celebrated on June 14 to encourage, acknowledge and thank the voluntary blood donors. Unlike previously, due to the ongoing pandemic the WHO decided to generate awareness of blood donation via online and virtual campaigns on social media. June 14 is also the birth date of Nobel laureate Karl Landsteiner who classified the blood groups in the first place back in 1900. He also discovered the rhesus factor and polio virus.

The writer is a physician, healthcare leader, traveller and an environmentalist.   He tweets as @Ali_Shahid82 

Share life, give blood