For years I never understood why blood stock levels were always low. How come the Blood service officials came to our school to solicit donors almost every term? It was not until my mum was about to undergo surgery that I realised how essential blood and blood products were in medical practice circles. Hitherto this event, I had donated twice in the past and was given a donor card. Most of us frequented these donations not because of how vital our gift of blood was to the patients who needed them but because of the incentives and the “rich” cocoa drink we take after every donation.
Subliminally, we were made to believe that we could present our donor cards for preferential treatment whenever we needed assistance in terms of blood or blood products. It was surprising and to my dismay when my mum’s surgery was about to be done, and we needed blood. Upon presenting my card, I was informed there was no blood for my mum. The best that could be done was that I would be given the blood because of the urgent request, and a family member would have to come in to donate as a replacement. The ordeal I experienced made me vouch never to give blood again. These and similar experiences are what most of our cherished donors go through whenever they are in dire need of blood for themselves or their relatives.
As a ground rule, we all believe that blood and blood products are essential to sustaining our health needs as a country. However, for every perishable commodity like blood, there is an expiry. Blood usually expires within 35 days after it has been donated. Similarly, cryoprecipitate, fresh frozen plasma and platelets take 35 days, a year and five days to expire, respectively. Besides, per the World Health Organization (WHO) requirements, every country’s required blood collection level should be about 1% of the country’s population. As such, our country, with a population of 30 million and over, all other things being equal, should have about 300,000 units annually. It is sad to mention that the country’s blood collection has mostly been below the allowable threshold over the years.
I realised the analysis was frightening against our blood collections, requests, and supplies data. Unlike before, Korle-Bu, for instance, performs at most hundred (100) surgeries within a month. The question behoves; how do our blood banks meet these unending requests? The claim of blood crediting demands of cherished donors becomes a murky discussion. The reason has been that stocks over the years, if I may say, are always on the low against the rising requests for blood and blood products. Therefore, it becomes unsustainable to accept that blood donors can be credited when they need blood only because they have once donated voluntarily.
Adding on to the above discussion is to look at the intent of most blood donors. I wish to reiterate that; the gesture of our cherished blood donors (both replacement and voluntary) remains at the heart of all the Blood Service does, and without blood donors, the Blood Service may not exist. However, I believe the idea of blood crediting, if supported or encouraged, defeats the purpose of volunteerism (gifting). Although, I am not against reciprocity since it remains a virtue of any strong relationship. It is, however, my opinion that a gift should remain as a gift. If those who give the gift of blood are to return whenever they need help to ask for the blood they once gave, the idea of voluntary unpaid donation is defeated. Besides, the hurt of this exercise is voluntary kindness. Even though it is my firm resolve that whenever the need is, donors can rush to the Blood Service for help or assistance, be that as it may, gifting your blood and coming back for it is not the best way to go. Besides, the stocks remain low, coupled with unceasing requests and blood products’ expiry.
In light of the above, I believe that, in the future, blood donors will factor these things in mind and bear with the Blood Service to avoid such precarious circumstances. After all, when there is enough blood, there will be no need to ask people to replace what they have received. This also is a clarion call on all qualified persons between the ages of 17-60 to continue donating and help the Blood Service move us out of perennial blood shortages.