I received a call about a month ago from Holy Family Hospital and the lady on the other end told me, “You’ve donated blood in the past at our hospital, can you please come and donate blood again since we have a shortage?”
I discussed it with my wife and a couple of doctors about how safe it was to visit a hospital because of the COVID pandemic. Based on their advice, and since my mother-in-law is staying with us, I decided not to donate blood.
A week ago, I received a similar call. I wanted to donate because they have a shortage at their blood bank. But I continued to be worried about how safe it was to go to a hospital when there is no personal emergency. I again checked with a couple of doctors and also spoke to the hospital administration. I was told that I should do it and that I should go in the morning just after they have cleaned up the place. And that’s what I did a couple of days ago.
The hospital was very empty and silent; in a way, eerie, with no crowds. The Blood Bank collection centre is in the Non-COVID part of the hospital. A lot of precautions are taken by the team. I got talking to the technician and discussed the empty collection centre. She told me that hardly anyone comes now to voluntarily donate blood these days; and with surgeries resuming, this is a huge challenge for the hospitals. The most common blood group they need is O+.
Is it a risk to visit a hospital these days to donate blood? I am sure it is. But today a lot of people I know are venturing out more than they did over the past five months. And if you can meet friends for dinner (with or without masks) or drive to a holiday destination like Lonavala or Goa, you can surely stop by your hospital to donate blood. We can come up with a host of excuses for why it is risky to donate blood today, but if you are meeting friends and relatives or going to office or going out for a walk, the risk of visiting a well-run hospital to donate blood is not much different (some say it can be less, but I can’t comment on that). So many of us have had relatives in hospital sometime in the past who needed blood. Today that would be a huge challenge. Money can’t buy blood if there is no stock.
So, I decided to write this short article to urge you to drop by your neighbourhood blood bank and donate less than a pint of your blood. A pint of beer tastes even better a day after donating a pint of blood! About 8% of your blood is taken and the body replaces this volume within 24 to 48 hours. Go to a blood bank that you believe follows safe protocols and ask them what’s the best time of the day to donate.
There have been so many people working around the clock in hospitals during the lockdown, knowing that they were running a huge personal risk. This is the least we can do for them and reduce their challenge to source blood for their patients.
I procrastinated for a month because I was unsure. That means the next time I can donate is pushed back by a month. Don’t procrastinate like I did — someone out there needs your blood today. Help save a life today.