Giving Blood Can Save Lives; Surely, the Ultimate Charity
Successes of major medical operations are not without their essential, though often uncredited, foundation: blood donors.
The Indonesia Red Cross (PMI) is currently staring down near-empty shelves. During Ramadan blood donations typically drop 50 percent, putting huge pressure and constraints on an already scarce blood supply.
Siti, who has worked for the Red Cross for 24 years and currently serves as the head of Phlebotomy explained that during the fasting month the number of blood donors was down by about 50 percent. “We usually get more than 300 donors per day,” she explained.
In the past there was an underlying fear that donating blood would prevent people who were fasting from completing their obligations, believing the process could result in faintness and exhaustion so leading to drastically low supplies.
But people like Indah Permatasari, a 19-year-old student donor, are slowly bucking the trend and showing friends and family that donating blood while fasting is the “ultimate a form of charity.”
“I didn’t encounter any problems after I donated my blood,” said Indah. “Some of my high school friends also donated their blood while fasting and they’re OK. The Koran does not forbid us from donating blood during Ramadan. Giving blood is the ultimate form of charity — why should it be forbidden?”
PMI is currently in the middle of a month-long awareness campaign to change the mind-set about donating blood during Ramadan.
Potential blood donors, however, have fears beyond faintness and exhaustion: health concerns — commonly adverse effects and unsterilized needles — often arise. PMI ensures that preventive measures have been comprehensively applied.
“There are no adverse effects,” explained Merry, a general practitioner who was recently on the fifth floor of PMI headquarters on Jalan Kramat Raya, in Senen, Central Jakarta, checking blood pressure and approving afternoon donors.
Merry explained that, as long as donors are within PMI’s donor safety requirements — 17 to 60 years of age, 45 kilograms of minimum body mass, proper blood pressure, and have not given blood in the past 75 days — there is nothing of concern.
“Needle sharing is no longer an issue,” she added. “Syringes are properly disposed after they are used once. They’re no longer sterilised and reused as they were in the past. The blood bags are also exclusive to each donor.”
Donors at PMI Kramat Raya seemed to have no concern regarding PMI’s health standards.
“If you’re afraid to donate blood, the fear is within yourself,” said Trimiyarti, 60, who has routinely donated her blood every year for the past 20 years. “It’s for charity.”
Meanwhile, Imron Rasadi, who has donated blood 15 times, sees coming to Red Cross to donate blood as his responsibility
“It’s our obligation since we are still living in good shape,” fifteenth-time donor believed. “We can give out to others that way.”
Marcella Francisca, 24, considers donating blood to be “an easy way of volunteering.”
“It’s my fifth time being a blood donor,” she said. “My first time was at a mobile blood bank, and I usually donate in PMI’s Senayan post.”
The Red Cross has established blood donor centers at multiple popular locations in Jakarta — Senayan City, Tanah Abang market, Trisakti University — and mobile blood banks roam Jakarta on a daily basis. The mobile blood banks often visit schools and workplaces to encourage on-the-spot blood.
During Ramadan, PMI also focuses on churches and temples in an effort to boost their supplies. Recently, alumni groups have contacted the Red Cross and organized blood donations as a way of networking, volunteering and catching-up.
New donors are always welcome to support the ever-increasing need of blood supply. If you are interested in donating, you can donate at any of the donor centers or mobile blood banks and the whole process usually takes no more than 15 minutes.
And more donors are definitely needed.
“Indonesia requires 4.8 million regular blood donors annually,” said Valencia Mieke Randa, the founder of Blood for Life. “Only 3.5 million people are willing to donate their blood on a regular basis.”
This leaves a staggering shortfall of 1.3 million donators-worth of blood supply, hindering a hefty amount of life-saving blood transfusions.
Siti echoed Valencia’s plea for more donors to come forward.
“There is a definite scarcity of A-type and AB-type blood supply,” she said. “Fifteen percent of Indonesians have A-type blood, and seven percent have AB-type blood.”
These figures put more than 50 million Indonesians at risk of blood supply shortage when a simple blood transfusion is required.