Is it safe to donate blood? This is the first question that comes to mind, when everyone is talking about social distancing.
Before Covid-19 itself, Indians have never been generous with their blood, and mostly donated only if it was required by someone known. (The WHO recommends that a country have blood reserve units equal to 1% of its population. At the national level, India was short of 1.9 million units of blood, as per data presented to the Lok Sabha in March 2018.)
With the lockdown, people would not be moving around, and blood donation would not be on the mind. It seems that there have been fewer blood camps organised and regular donors have been avoiding hospitals and blood banks, fearful of catching Covid-19. This has resulted in a shortage of blood, with most blood banks running on reserves.
Today, 3rd May 2020, Lions Club of Lokhandwala Township, Kandivali East in collaboration with Prince Aly Khan Hospital, conducted a blood donation camp in our area. The hospital is known for its oncology and cardiovascular disease care and treatment. When I was reading out the Whatsapp message a few days ago, my son Siddharth immediately said he would go. This would be his first time. As you can imagine, we were a bit apprehensive, but the message was reassuring in that it mentioned that time slots would be given to maintain social distancing.
Every precaution was taken at the venue. The donors were asked basic questions and parameters such as weight, blood pressure, haemoglobin were checked. The doctors and medical assistants were all dressed in PPE, the first time Siddharth was seeing them for real. And the procedure carried out with utmost care. After the blood was taken, donors were given tea and glucose biscuits.
Siddharth found out that such blood donation camps are held in the township twice a year only, because all that they manage to get are about 100 units of blood per year. This from 10,000 flats across 80-odd societies, which would easily have at least 10,000 eligible blood donors. A sad reflection of the national sentiment towards blood donation.
Siddharth said it was a most satisfying experience, more so at a time like this when we know that blood is in short supply and literally priceless. He got a small card indicating the next date he can donate blood, three months from now.
India needs more healthy people to come forward to give blood. It will help save someone’s life. Someday that someone could be you.
Edit: An email of thanks was received which mentioned that 31 units were collected at the camp