The year was 1995.
Dr P Srinivasan, a physician, and Dr Saranya Narayan, a microbiologist, had just inaugurated a blood bank at Nungambakkam in Chennai.
But the idea for a blood bank had been born a few years earlier. They had been leafing through a stack of documents in the medical diagnostic laboratory, founded by Dr Srinivasan, when they realised that some people may have been infected with HIV, Hepatitis B, and C through blood transfusions between 1991 and 1992.
It was then Dr Srinivasan and Dr Saranya had one vision in mind- "to provide access to safest blood components" to those in need.
"We knew the technology and we had the credibility," Dr Srinivasan, co-founder and Chairman of Jeevanâ€™s Blood Bank, recalls.
Now, 21 years later, and over 1.5 lakh voluntary blood donations later, the operations of the not-for-profit blood bank will be shut down on February 28.
The founders say that "over the last three years, maintaining the highest level of blood safety and remaining financially sustainable has become impossible for Jeevanâ€™s Blood Bank operations."
Dr Saranya Narayan (left) and Dr P Srinivasan.
Born in Tuticorin, Dr Srinivasan moved to then Madras in 1970 to pursue his medical studies following which he served as a full-time physician at the CSI Rainy Hospital in the city.
In 1984, he went to the UK on a Commonwealth Foundation Fellowship and on returning to India a year later, he decided to quit his job as a physician and set up a medical laboratory.
The hospital he worked in previously did not have a lab and he remembers having to "set up a lab for quality results".
Delivery to first blood storage centre in India
"A physician cannot survive without a dependable lab. And since I too was a physician, I knew what doctors were looking for," he says. Dr Srinivasan then roped in Dr Saranya to help run the lab.
"In the last 21 years, we have facilitated 1.5 lakh voluntary blood donations and 2.3 lakh units of the blood components have been provided to patients in Chennai," Dr Srinivasan proudly notes.
After the success of the blood bank, a public cord blood bank and the Jeevan stem cell registry were also started- the operations of which are funded by the Tamil Nadu government and corporates. While the blood bank will be closed, the other two will continue to function.
Jeevan mobile blood collection van being inagurated in May 2000
In 1999, it was given ISO certification and in 2010 it became the first independent blood bank in South to be accredited to National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH) standards.
"It was a baby that we saw growing into an adult. It was a painful decision (to close it). We were incurring losses of Rs 2 lakh each month. Besides there are 33 other blood banks in Chennai currently. So, we can now put our energy into the other two projects," he says.
Jeevan is also taking to crowdfunding in order to provide quick and affordable access to matching stem cells to Indians with blood cancers and Thalassemia.