If you are a healthy individual, you can make a difference during this health crisis, by donating blood. Scores of blood banks in Bengaluru are running out of reserves.
Other than thalassemia patients, patients suffering from bleeding disorders, anaemia, chronic kidney disease, pregnancy complications and trauma need blood.
Rotary TTK Blood Bank, run by the Bangalore Medical Services Trust in Indiranagar, caters to around 100 thalassemia (a blood disorder) patients in a month, in addition to the perennial blood needs, including those of trauma cases.
Generally, the Rotary TTK Blood Bank in Indiranagar would collect 3,000 units of blood in a month and the surplus would be given to government hospitals like Victoria Hospital and Bowring and Lady Curzon hospitals for free. But now, the crisis, which started since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has intensified, so much that the blood bank is able to collect only 200 units of blood in a month.
Dr Narsima Swamy, medical in-charge of the blood bank, said that the latest lockdown in Bengaluru, which is set start from Tuesday night, will further worsen the problem. â€śWe have set up a blood collection van, which is going to some busy localities in the city and encouraging people to donate blood. Many volunteered to donate blood. With the latest lockdown and restriction in movement, we will not be able to find anybody,â€ť he told TNM.
Dr Narsima also pointed out that there is a demand for platelets (tiny blood cells) due to some cases of dengue in Bengaluru. â€śPlatelets have a shelf life of only five days; so there is always a requirement of fresh blood,â€ť he added.
Dr Namitha A Kumar, who heads advocay at the Open Platform for Rare Diseases and a thalassemia patient herself, said, â€ťWe, as thalassemia patients, have been facing this blood shortage crisis since March and it has now intensified. We are forced to network and find donors on our own. Earlier, we could hold blood camps in IT parks and other large offices, where we could collect the number of blood units we required. Since these office spaces have been shut and due to the fear of COVID-19, there is less access to donors,â€ť she said.
So far, those working in the sector said whatever little government intervention has taken place, has failed to make any real improvement. â€śWhile we personally coordinate and gather some donors, we had asked the government to arrange transport for these donors. However, they pick up and drop the donor only at a blood bank closer to the donorâ€™s house, and not the designated blood collection point, like a hospital. This system does not work for us,â€ť she said.
It is almost the same picture at one of the major non-government medical facilities in St Johnâ€™s Hospital in Bengaluru. Dr Sitalakshmi, Head of Blood Transfusion at St Johnâ€™s Medical College Hospital, said the problem has become much worse in the past week due to the recent spike in daily COVID-19 cases and the general fear among the public.
â€śThere is obviously a lot less number of donors walking in. We are still continuing to arrange for blood by calling in our regular pool of donors. But, we can call only a small number of people to our blood bank daily in order to maintain the COVID-19 precautions,â€ť she said.
â€śThe situation is bad as we are forced to tell patient parties that we canâ€™t help,â€ť said Deepak Suman, technical director at the Lionâ€™s Blood Bank in Bengaluru, adding that there is a shortage of both blood and platelets.
How to donate blood
Even if there is a small group of people who would like to donate blood, the team from Rotary TTK Blood Bank in Indiranagar will come to a designated place to collect blood, following all standard operating procedures and COVID-19 related precautions.
Volunteers can call Aparna at 90089 92192 for the same. Others can walk into the blood bank located near New Thipassandra Post Office to donate blood.
To donate blood at St Johnâ€™s Medical College Hospital, donors can contact 9591990365 for details.
Deepak Suman of the Lionâ€™s Blood Bank said they can arrange transport to and fro for willing donors in Bengaluru. Donors can call, SMS or WhatsApp him at 9845315670.