Societies are built and formed on some ground rules, or I should say principles. The same is true for beliefs which are often subscribed to by every community in which one finds him or herself. Culturally and religiously, we are all socialized to see blood as a sacred gift or item. We grew up in communities where we saw on our TV sets individuals giving their blood for sacrifices in movies and even what we hear of in real life. Similarly, we saw animal sacrifices where the blood of bulls or rams and fowl are shed for this same reason. It would amaze you how watching these movies has socially engineered our beliefs (misconceived though) and strongly influenced donors worldwide, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa (Asamoah et al., 2017). This piece is written in this light and intends to demystify such unfounded and untenable belief that donated blood is used for rituals other than for medical (transfusion) purposes.
Blood (from voluntary donations) is often sourced from our communities and institutions. Before the mobiles, contact sessions are organized to interact with prospective donors and educate them on the exercise. A day or two is slated for the blood donation exercise at the site after the necessary arrangements have been made. On donation day, when blood is collected from donors, the donated blood is often kept in a storage box on site. These cold boxes are specially designed for storing blood and blood products. After collection from the site and before it is tested at the microbiology lab, the transfused blood from the site is often quarantined, each bearing its unique Donation identification number (DIN). However, the bulk blood collected from each mobile session comes with a donation form which bears each donor’s name and other personal information. When brought to the facility for quarantine and further processes, blood comes with a handing over form which specifies the number of blood units collected, the time donation started and ended on-site, which is signed by the handing over officer and that of the receiving officer of the facility. One of the necessary details to compare/confirm from the handing over form is the number of blood collected on-site, the number of bulk blood received, and the time of collection for component processing purposes. The confirmation from the handing over forms is to certify the quantum and rectify any discrepancies. Similarly, bulk blood received is quarantined under strict and safe conditions at the facility even before results are released, processed into the various components needed and labelled after grouping.
The processes mentioned above show a very secure way of ensuring that donated blood is carefully quarantined, processed, tested, stored and issued. From the practices over the years, Individual collections of processed blood are not advised/allowed at various facilities as the best practices have shown. Hence, processed blood is supplied only to facilities upon request. Even with family replacement donations, there should be a request from the facility before they are issued. They are always to the facilities or their reps and not individuals. It is worthy of pointing out to the public that, due to the increasing number of blood and products related requests from these facilities and the limited number of voluntary blood donations carried out throughout the country, there has been excess demand for blood and its products. Thus, the belief above becomes untenable as firmly held on to by some members of the public. Besides, due to the low number of collected and processed blood, it would be unwise to make the scarce but precious resource go to waste or sacrifice it for these ritual purposes other than for saving lives medically.
From collection, quarantine, and testing to processing, storage and issuing/ distribution, blood and blood products are carefully monitored, and stock levels are well documented for these reasons. Stock levels are discussed at peer-review committees organized monthly to compare and correlate collected blood and issued blood units. All these practices aim to monitor how our facilities have efficiently and effectively collected blood. It is worthy of mention also that blood to be discarded either because of been flagged for transfusion transmissible infections (TTI’s) or under bled or burst are carefully disposed of and equally accounted for in monthly and annual statistics. As part of our oversight responsibilities on the facilities, the National Blood Service periodically visit facilities which collect or receive blood and blood products from our end for quality assurance and other purposes. This is to ensure that facilities undergoing blood collection, transfusion and its related activities are authorized and conform to the best practices.
In light of the above, I wish to emphasize the idea(misconception) that Blood donated is used for rituals because it is gravely untenable. It is our resolve that by this, our precious blood donors are incredibly enlightened and incentivized to keep donating blood continuously.
By John Yaw Ansah (Information Officer, RTI)