What is the most compassionate thing you can do for another human being? Have you ever imagined that being a superhero or saviour could be as simple as donating blood? Blood transfusions are carried out in hospitals on a daily basis and with the high demand for blood, donors are important and needed.
The love and compassion of certain individuals has given life to many people who would have otherwise lost their lives. Today is World Donor day. Although it became a practical possibility during and shortly after Second World War, the concept of blood transfusion has come a long way and although attempts were not always successful, it paved way for what today is probably one of the noblest acts of human kind. The first ever blood bank established was in 1936 in Barcelona. With the current voluntary blood donation process as well as sophisticated methods of collection, storage, testing and processing of blood required by medical procedures, we have come a long way since those early primitive days of drinking the blood of gladiators. Blood cannot be manufactured so blood banks across the world rely on the compassion of volunteers to donate their blood. Blood only has a shelf life of 42 days, so the more donors the better.
Although there have been suspicions that there is not enough blood to assist patients across the country, Joseph Mothusi Moatshe from the Botswana Blood Bank alleviates these fears and is instead satisfied with the number of donors they have although they always encourage more people to be volunteer donors.
“We have regular donors on our database; these are people who come in every three months to donate blood. Due to their menstrual cycle, women donate every fourth months, while men donate every three months. We often give our regular donors reminders to come in and supply us with blood.” Moatshe insists that people do donate blood once they are informed and understand the importance of this noble act. He points out that sometimes the type that a patient needs is unavailable and in such instances, they try to find one donor whose blood type matches. “There are different blood types, like A, B, AB and O. Each one has a negative and positive, for example A positive, or AB negative and so forth. We receive the specifics for the patient from hospitals and check whether we have that blood type in our records. O type for example, works for everyone but there are not many people who fall in this blood category. There is an abundance of A-positive, but we struggle with other blood groups. This does not reflect unwillingness to donate on the part of Batswana but asserts the mere fact that in some incidences the needed blood type is unavailable at that point,” he explains. Moatshe says that to be a donor, one has to undergo screening first. “Potential donors should be aged 16 and above, weigh more than 50kg and not have an illness like high blood pressure, anemia, and diabetes or be HIV positive. When individuals come in we check their haemoglobin level. It is risky health wise, for people with low level of haemoglobin or blood to donate.”
Moatshe says they carry out public drives to sensitise the public on the importance of donating blood on a regular basis. “We are always on a recruitment drive to encourage more people, particularly youth, to donate blood. We visit schools, churches and companies to spread the message on the importance of blood donation. We have special programmes directed at school going students because at that age, they are healthier,” he notes. On Monday the Blood bank had a walk from their Main mall to the South ring mall and back, with Dr. Molelekwa as their guest of honour. Today there will be a commemorative event at the Oasis Motel, which will be officiated by the Minister of Health Reverend John Seakgosing. Many people’s lives have been saved through blood transfusions carried out from donors. Lesego Motshabi* remains grateful for blood she received. “Eight years ago I was admitted to hospital following a fatal car crash. I spent a week in the intensive care unit and although my recovery was slow, there was hope. In the last few weeks of my hospital stay, a blood transfusion was carried out.
I knew my life hung on the balance. I had never thought of donating blood. In my mind it was something other people did and I never imagined myself as a beneficiary of someone else blood. I am grateful for life. After that experience I will not forego the opportunity to assist someone with an organ or blood.”