WORLD BLOOD DONOR DAY - Give blood. Share life.
Transfusion of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives every year. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life; it supports complex medical and surgical procedures. It also has an essential, life-saving role in maternal and child care and during emergency response to man-made and natural disasters. Against this back drop, every year, on 14 June, countries around the world, including Cameroon, celebrate World Blood Donor Day. The event serves to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood and to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure the quality, safety and availability of blood and blood products for patients in need. In prelude to this year’s celebration, the Bamenda Regional Hospital, observed a World Blood Donation week for blood donors to be received, their blood samples collected and screened, and if certified to be eligible, the blood is then collected and kept in the hospital for use when the need arises.
BRH website caught up with the Chief of Service for the Blood Bank at the Bamenda Regional Hospital, Mr. Ako Fidelis Atabong, who first talks on who is eligible to donate blood. Mr Atabong explains that the age factor has a role to play. Once a person is between the ages of 18 and 60, he/she can donate blood; blood is not collected from children. There is equally the fulfillment of the medical criteria; vital signs are taken (blood pressure, weight and hemoglobin level). The hemoglobin level determines the level of blood that a person has in his/her system. Females need to have a greater than or equal to 12grams per deciliter while men are supposed to have greater or equal to 13 grams per deciliter. After going through that, the blood sample is collected to run some tests like HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and Syphilis. These four tests are done in all the Blood Banks in the world and the Regional Hospital Bamenda Blood Bank is not an exception, Mr. Atabong reiterated. Once these markers are identified in a donor’s system, blood cannot be collected from them to avoid transmitting to the next person. It’s is equally an advantage to the Blood Donors because once a donor is tested positive of any of the three infections, he/she is linked to the treatment centres, where consultations are free. As for HIV, it has been subsidized worldwide and testing and treatment are free. For Hepatitis B and C, after the consultation, the patient does his/her follow up. Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, smokers, females who are on their menstrual period, are not eligible to donate blood. Those who equally recently travelled to Ebola-infested zones, cannot donate because such areas are high risk zones for the Ebola Virus. A person, who has recently suffered from a crisis or has undergone a surgical operation or has recently suffered from a fever, cannot equally be a blood donor. According to the Chief of Service, the personnel of the Blood Bank of the Bamenda Regional Hospital has undergone a series of trainings through the mentorship of Save Blood For Africa Foundation where it operates in international Standards.
Many have and are wondering what is done after a person must have donated blood, to replenish the blood. To this Mr Atabong says the basic abnormality that can result from donating blood is depletion of the iron store in the blood system. So, each blood donor receives a card of Iron Sulphate and Phosphoric acid. The donor takes the pills once a day just to replenish his/her iron stores, eats well, drinks much water, takes a lot of fruits, reduces alcohol intake and should live a healthy life. Equally the hospital management provides basic food items like bread and canned Malta beverage.
As to whether the Bamenda Regional Hospital organizes voluntary Blood Donation Campaigns aside the World Blood Donor Day, Mr. Atabong responds in the affirmative, saying: “The BRH is a reference hospital for the region and the need for blood is really high. Let’s take for example that the hospital has 400 beds, we assume that each bed will consume 7units of blood per year. This means that the blood bank needs 2800 units of blood a year; we have already done 1500 transfusions since the beginning of this year. So we need more than 3000 units of blood to be collected just to serve this hospital not to talk of hospitals from outside who come to give us requests for blood. The Northwest Region on its own needs at least 5000 units of blood to be collected per year because the World Health Organization estimates that 1% of the total population may need blood annually. So the hospital cannot survive without the strategy of organizing blood donation campaigns since there are many departments within and out of the hospital that the Blood Bank assists to reduce mortality. It organizes such campaigns in churches, as well as fixed posts at the hospital premises to collect blood from volunteers to stock in the Blood Bank so as to save lives.
Tongues have wagged and the population remains adamant to blood donation because they hold that they donate this blood for free but the hospital demands payment for it to be given to needy patients. Mr Atabong explains that blood has never, is not and will never, be sold at the Regional Hospital Bamenda since blood cannot cost blood. To him, the hospital is losing more because the Blood Bank is one of those departments in the hospital that does not generate income. Blood donors need to know that costly reagents are used in the analysis of the blood to ascertain its safety before it can be used. An estimated 31000 FRS is used to get a safe unit of blood, Mr Atabong reveals but the hospital minimizes all that so that patients can get blood when it is needed.
For the turnout, Mr. Atabong says it is encouraging thanks to the Blood Donor Ambassadors that the Hospital is proud to have. He feels that the reluctance of people to donate and the misconception attached to blood donation is the reason for which the Blood Bank started sensitization in schools, churches as well as public gatherings in 2016 to talk about the importance of blood and the need for people to donate blood. In 2016, 3000units (30%) of blood were collected, in 2017, 4000units (40%) were collected and as at now for 2018, the collection rate stands at below 30% this owing to the current socio-political crisis rocking the region. For people with rare blood group like all the negatives, there is a data bank with contacts of such donors so that once there is need, they can be solicited to donate so as to save a life. This method was devised so that patients of this group are not left out.
He thanked management for supporting the unit and saving more lives without which more deaths would have been registered from malaria, women delivering through caesarian section, having postpartum hemorrhages, as well as people living with anemia in HIV.
In his final word to the population, Mr. Atabong, Chief of Service for the Blood Bank at the Bamenda Regional Hospital, appealed to them to have at the back of their minds that the Blood Bank at the BRH is part of the hospital and is owned by the people because the product that the Blood Bank gives out, comes from the community and the users of the product are from the community. So, those who come to do so for their families should do so voluntarily to save more other lives. It is important to note that any human 50kg and above can donate 430mils of blood. After donating, another donation can only be done after 4months for women and 3months for men. Some irregularities nevertheless have been witnessed with mostly men who donate too often and end up can increasing the level of iron deficiency anemia and this affects them in the long run. Such persons donate for pay, a condemnable practice. A clarion call therefore to the general public that we cannot put a price on blood which is provided by God so let us learn to save lives and keep monetary considerations out of it. Blood Donation is not a money making venture. Bllod Donors remained however promising to be there to save lives when the need arises.
Pedmia Shatu Tita
Pictures of Blood donors