It was a sultry afternoon in Aama Odisha campus in Bhubaneswar on 2nd June. We were organizing a small get-together of 200-odd volunteers who had donated blood at the local blood bank during hot summer months of April and May. This was a pilot blood donation scheme by Aama Odisha titled Bipada ra Bandhu: floated to meet the summer deficit of blood in the blood banks of Bhubaneswar.
A gentleman was narrating his experience in the meeting and thanking the volunteers of Aama Odisha for arranging a few units of blood for his daughter who was being treated at a local hospital in a critical condition. But afterwards, he asked yours truly, a very innocent but pertinent question.
“Your organization has been conducting blood camps all over the state and collecting 50,000 plus units of blood every year. Many other organizations are also contributing. Inspite of so many units of blood collected, why is there a shortage of blood in the blood banks these days?”
The answer to this question is fairly simple. Blood, like any other organic product, has a limited shelf life. With the available storage technology, it cannot be stored beyond a period of 35 days. Even if we had thousands of units in our blood banks a month and a half ago, they are of no use today.
Moreover, the number of blood camps during summer months (March to June) fall drastically, as the entire state reels under heat wave. But the requirement for blood remaining the same, the stocks deplete very soon and there is an almost “nil” stock situation in most of the blood banks. The only way to overcome this shortage is to schedule blood camps during this precise time, now.
To address this issue, Aama Odisha has come up with an innovative programme called Bipada ra Bandhu. Under this programme, individual donors in groups of five visited the blood bank and donate blood almost on a daily basis which has provided respite to this blood crisis in the capital city. It has received encouraging responses from all corners and requests have been received to extend this program to other cities, as well.
The crux of the matter is that we need to donate blood strategically, whenever and wherever it is needed. Although, it creates tremendous impact, when we organize mega blood camps; this strategy is counter-productive during winter months, when we have surplus stock in blood banks.
Not long ago, there were practically no voluntary blood donation camps in Odisha.The situation changed after Aama Odisha, an NGO set up under the aegis of Sambad, the largest circulated Odia daily of Odisha took up voluntary blood donation as their flagship program in 2006. Using the state-wide network of Sambad, they conduct camps in all the 314 blocks of the state and collect about 50000 units of blood every year. Last year, with the launching of Jeevan Bindu programme by Biju Janata Dal, another 1 lakh units have been added to the total collection. But the reality today is, we don’t have adequate stock of blood as substantiated on the government website (ebloodbank.nhmodisha.com).
The saving grace is that we still have a number of good Samaritans in our society, who are working relentlessly and tirelessly, for the cause to save lives. They are the real Bipada ra Bandhu; pillars of support for our blood donation campaign.
Today on World Blood Donor Day (14th June), let us take a pledge to join hands with these people and organize blood donation camps in our areas as early as possible. The heat wave is not yet over and the hapless patients in many a hospital in the state are still in need of some friends in deed!
*The author is the secretary of Aama Odisha.