07 May 2010
By Pushpa Narayan
When 45–year–old Sahira Begum (name changed) was admitted to the Government General Hospital for a heart surgery, her family members were asked to donate five units of blood to replace the stock in the hospital’s blood bank.
Every summer, hospitals in Chennai face a different kind of drought. With blood donation camps dwindling owing to the summer vacations, most hospitals turn to relatives of patients to replenish the supply. The case is no different with other blood banks in the city either.
“At least 85% of our donors are from educational institutions. Now, with most educational institutions having shut for the holidays, there is a huge shortage in supply. This happens every year, so we always ask patient relatives to replace the blood,” says Dr Selvarajan, who manages the GH blood bank.
In emergency cases, however, replacement is not asked, he said. “It is also the duty of attendants of patients to get blood if there is a shortage. In several cases, such attenders go on to become our regular donors,” he added.
The demand for blood normally goes up in the city during the summer as the number of elective surgeries also goes up several times during these months.
“In cases where surgery can be put off, most prefer to have it done during the summer as schools are closed and they wouldn’t have to take time off from work or upset their children’s class schedules. So the request for blood and other components doubles during summer,” said a social worker at the department of blood transfusion, Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University.
And it’s not just rare groups that fall short. “It’s a myth if people think that only rare blood groups are hard to get. More often it’s the common blood groups that go out of stock as the demand of these groups are more,” says Dr P Srinivasan, director, Jeevan Blood Bank.
Ironically, the Tamil Nadu State Aids Control Society (TNSACS), the nodal body controlling all blood banks in the state, says it has received no complaints of shortages so far. “We have a good model of voluntary donations. We discourage replacement donors. We have been encouraging corporates to organise blood donation camps particularly during summer months,” said a senior official of TNSACS.
Meanwhile, some blood banks are cashing in on the situation, say patients. “I paid Rs 2,000 for per unit of blood. The staff at the bank told me the price varied depending on the blood group,” said Ashok Chitranjan who had get blood for his son admitted for dengue.
According to an official of the Directorate of Drug Control, action has been initiated against blood banks, which have failed to update their records and maintain infrastructure.
ABC OF GROUPING
Here are some of the factors that decide your blood group
THERE ARE FOUR TYPES OF BLOOD GROUPS: A, B, AB or 0 A
Those with this blood group have A antigens on the surface of the red blood cells and B antibodies in the blood plasma B Those with this group have B antigens on the surface of the red blood cells and A antibodies in the blood plasma AB In the group AB group, both A and B antigens are on the surface of the red blood cells and no A or B antibodies are found in the blood plasma O Those with this group have neither A or B antigens on the surface of the red blood cells. But both A and B antibodies are in blood plasma
The Rhesus (Rh) Factor
Blood with antigens in blood plasma are called Rh(+) and that without antigens in the blood plasma are called Rh(-). Those with Rh(+) group can receive blood from those with Rh(-) group
Want To Be A Donor? Here’s What You Should Know
• Those between 18 and 60 years of age, weighing at least 45 kg, with a haemoglobin count above 12.5 g/dl and blood pressure above 110/I70 mmHg and below 180/100 mmHg can donate blood
• Donors should not take alcohol for 12 hours before the donation. They should not have had malaria, typhoid, jaundice or TB and should go off aspirin at least 3 days prior to donation
• Pregnant women and breast feeding mothers are not allowed to donate blood. Those with Hepatitis B & C, HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea, and cancer are also not allowed to donate blood