A Nobility Called “Blood Donors”
Someone said that donating blood is far nobler than any other form of donation, since barring renal transplants most donations are done after the life time of the donor and even in the case of renal transplants, a person can only donate once during their lifetime.
Ideally a healthy individual can donate their blood once in every eight weeks which translates to around 6 times a year and nearly 180 times (considering a healthy timeline of 30 years); thereby saving more lives than one can possibly save by donating their organs on their death, no wonder it’s considered so noble and humane.
Ask someone who has donated blood at least once in their lifetime, they would say that the joy they derive out of it is boundless, especially when it’s done at some of the most crucial hours of need.
Very few things in life can surpass the joy and the emotional satisfaction one gets when they receive a tearful ‘Thank You’ from the loved ones of those who receive it.
Such acts often remind people that humanity still has hope in a world that’s now often synonymous with hatred, bigotry betrayal and self-centeredness.
In most cases, people who donate are often unrelated and total strangers to the recipients, making it an even nobler act such that even the most cold-hearted and self-centered person can be transformed by it. The very question of as to why a total stranger would be willing to part with their blood expecting nothing in return, would be pivotal and often make people realize that kindness is often more important than money or power.
More often such acts can cultivate a ‘Pay it Forward’ culture, where one, on receiving an act of kindness especially from unknown strangers, often try to pay it back to someone else and if this goes on unbroken could pave way for a generous and a more humane society.
When someone donates blood they are not just donating a biological fluid but giving ‘LIFE’ to someone for there is LIFE in blood.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of educators and social workers in educating the masses on the importance of donating blood, which was once considered a taboo and something people were wary of doing and most of us today have a fair understanding of how important blood is to the survival of a person.
The Dire Need for Blood Donation as a Regular Habit
One of the primary reasons for fatalities during medical emergencies that could be caused by events such as accidents or natural calamities like earthquakes and war time causalities is the loss of large amount of blood caused to injuries; in many of these cases the loss of lives could have been prevented by the timely availability of blood matching the victim’s blood groups.
Primarily due to shelf life concerns, blood banks are always in need of regular supply of blood, there can never be a season where there is an abundance of blood and due to this donors are often in need on a periodic basis. To understand as to why we need a regular supply, let me brief you on the composition of blood and their shelf lives.
The Different Components of Blood and Their Shelf Lives
Whole Blood has four main components namely red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC), platelets and plasma; due to their different shelf life periods, donated blood is often separated in each of their components for safe handling and storage. Prior to this, the donated blood is added with an anti-coagulants such as sodium citrate, phosphate and dextrose to prevent them from clotting.
Platelets: It’s primarily due to its short shelf life of seven days, that blood banks are in constant need of donation but the good news is that since it’s replenished quickly donors can donate in the next few days.
RBC: Most recent studies have found its shelf life to be less than three weeks beyond which it becomes too rigid for flowing through narrow blood vessels in the recipient’s body increasing the chances of infection, prolonging recovery time. A donor can donate again after about eight weeks (during which it gets replenished from the bone marrow).
Plasma: The transporting component of the blood which makes up close to 55% of the total volume of blood has a shelf life of one year (in dried form) and the donor can donate in a matter of 2-3 days and the most widely required component of all.
Statistics on Blood Donation in India
The need: 50,000,000 Units
Available supply: 800,000 Units
- This roughly translates to a meager 6.25% availability of blood.
- This number can hardly go up unless there is a wide-spread awareness on the need for more people to donate which is the only solution since it cannot be manufactured.
- Every two seconds someone needs blood.
- More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.
- A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year.
- The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
- The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O (Universal Donor).
- Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
- More than one million new people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
- A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood
Given the intensity of the need, all we require is a society that realizes the need of the hour and is willing to plunge into action when needed.
It’s time to ‘Awaken the Good Samaritan’ in each of our hearts!!!!!!
At this juncture, I believe it would appropriate for us to look at how this whole process of blood donation started and honor those individuals whose roles were pivotal in making such an act medically possible.
A Brief History on the Origin of the Process of Blood Transfusion
- With the discovery of the circulatory system in 1616 several physicians made unsuccessful attempts to transfuse blood starting with ‘dog to dog’ and even ‘animals to humans’ resulting in the loss of lives.
- There are unpublished reports of blood transfusion in 1795 at Philadelphia, United States by an American physician Philip Syng Physick.
- But it was not until 1818 that a successful blood transfusion was performed and it was done by Dr. James Blundell an obstetrician in England he was also the first doctor to establish the fact that it can only be done from ‘humans to humans’.
- It was in 1901, a pathologist Dr. Karl Landsteiner ,an Austrian Nobel laureate for medicine first discovered the different blood groups ABO and in 1940 along with Dr. Alexander Weiner discovered the Rhesus factor in blood; both his discoveries were very important in understanding the process of blood transfusion.
- In 1932 Dr. Andre Bagdasarov (Russia) developed the method of preserving blood collected from a donor in a bottle (at a temperature of 4°C for 21 days) by adding glucose with sodium citrate in a measured quantity in a blood bottle.
Dr. Karl Landsteiner
Though many myths about blood ingestion have been said since 43 B.C. scientifically accurate ‘Blood Transfusion’ is considered to have begun with Dr. Karl Landsteiner whose birth anniversary (June 14th) is rightly celebrated as “World Blood Donor’s Day”
History and Origin of Blood Banks
- Though blood donation and its preservation was already in prevalence during the beginning of the 20th Century, the advent of the First World War served as a catalyst in advancing the need for blood banks.
- Canadian Lieutenant Lawrence Bruce Robertson performed his first wartime transfusion with a syringe.
- The world’s first blood donor service was established in 1921 by the secretary of the British Red Cross, Percy Oliver.
- As years rolled by, the process of transfusion became more refined; subsequent wars and calamities increased its need multi-fold.
At this juncture we need to raise a very important question, how does one create a culture where blood donation is not just some random act but an act of charity?
It’s said that charity begins at home, and rightly so!!When someone is in need of blood, it’s often the loved ones that spring into action, who would be more than willing to do anything for their beloved , however certain medical limitations may not be in their favor;
Few of them are
- The donor’s blood group must match the recipient’s.
- A diabetic patient cannot donate.
- People who are anemic cannot donate.
This necessitates creating a culture where one is willing to look beyond their own families and be willing to help a fellow citizen who could be a total stranger while expecting nothing in return!!
To illustrate this better let’s have a look at the story of the ’Good Samaritan’.
This story talks about a man from Samaria (whose people were considered an inferior race by the Jews of that day) who while on a journey encounters a total stranger stripped and beaten by a band of dacoits and was bleeding to death. To make things worse for this stranger, the Samaritan realizes that he is a Jew – a race that treated Samaritans with contempt and hatred in those days. Faced with a dilemma on whether to abandon him (a good act of revenge) or take care of him (and be ridiculed by his people) the good Samaritan chooses the latter and saves the life of this Jew!
Now one might be prompted to ask as to what could have driven this man to act in such an unusual way of kindness, Why would anyone want to save his oppressors?, What could be the source of his act of kindness?.
As seen in the story of the Samaritan, could this unexpected act of kindness be defined as ‘Love’? But what is Love? Love is an unconditional act of sacrifice that puts one’s neighbor above themselves. Thereby, A blood donor donating his blood for the benefit of his fellow citizen is a noble act of Love.
In a small nation like Switzerland almost 70% of eligible citizens donate their blood on a regular basis.
Let’s look back at history to see where it all began.
Mother Teresa, popularly known for her unconditional love for the lepers of Calcutta , left the comforts of her home country to serve amongst the poorest of the poor in the slums of this nation because she believed that she had a mandate to serve her society through acts of kindness and love.
The father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi, who introduced the concept of non-violent resistance (for Independence) to our nation based his idea on Leo Tolstoy’s inference from ‘The Beatitudes’, which talks about servitude.
Martin Luther King Jr too, an American anti-racial crusader based his ideology on the same Beatitudes.
Very recently, even as the city of Chennai was handicapped during the December 2015 floods, it was the helping hand of the citizens of Chennai that enabled the millions of people get back on their feet.
It is with this love we want to serve our nation and our society at large to make it a better place for the present generation and the generations to come.
Unless we instill hope and love in the hearts of people, we may never be able to build a better society that can often get self-centric and paranoid if left unchecked.
Let’s build our nation and our world together for us and for our generations to come!
Journeys no matter how great always start with a single step!
Even as we begin our journey of transformation with this blood camp, though a small step in itself let’s hope and pray that it can create an avalanche of goodwill among our people towards their fellow humans!
In the words of Neil Armstrong Let this be…
“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.
Let us look forward to an India where every citizen is a voluntary blood donor.
God so Loves the World and My Nation India that He gave His Only Son Jesus Christ so that whoever believes in Him will not be lost but will have eternity set in their hearts.
Statistics on blood donation and historical facts have been obtained from the following websites: