Recently I was invited to talk to Rotarians in Dhanbad who have been trying to shape up their blood donation related activity. It was very difficult for me to plan what I was going to say - after all, I knew that what they had in mind was a virtual blood bank - or in other words - a list of blood donors. I was to talk to a roomful of people who were skeptical about the blood banks and who were sure that the blood bank does not issue blood when needed. The group had a lot of confidence in the idea that they should donate blood only when there was a patient in need of blood.
I recollect the first time people who crafted Sankalp India Foundation came across the problem of the blood bank refusing to issue blood to a patient when needed. I remember their thoughts in the aftermath of that episode. When a person is returned empty handed at the time of urgency - when someone close to him/her is battling to survive, the distrust in blood banking naturally builds up. An event of the blood bank failing to provide blood when needed or an event of the blood bank asking for replacement, triggers a response from the community. The response is we won't donate blood unless there is a patient on the bed who needs our help. Think carefully. Is this not a way to ensure that more people will find the blood bank unable to give them blood when needed? Does this not mean that more people will struggle to get blood units? After all, the only use to which the blood banks can put a blood unit to - is to issue it to a human being. They cannot keep stocking units. Therefore, if they are saying a no to someone for blood, it points towards lack of adequate supply of blood from voluntary blood donors.
The evening discussion was vibrant. There was discussion on blood wastage and the idea of doing regular small drives instead of one large drive was well received by the audience. The audience received the concept of saying no to blood donor cards and instead asking blood banks to issue blood to whoever needs without replacement to the extent possible also had many takers. There was also discussion on how to manage rare blood group requests. We were happy to have played my role in demystifying truly voluntary blood donation. The Rotarians promised to organise a blood donation camps soon and follow it up with regular camps thereafter.
Within a fortnight we received a Whatsapp update saying that 107 units of blood were collected in the blood donation camp organised by Rotary Club, Dhanbad.
We were told that people enthusiastically rolled up their sleeves and donated. We were also told that donors told the blood bank that they need no replacement cards. Congratulations to the organisers and donors!