Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Blood bank appeals for more, even as many prospective donors turned away

Published:Sunday | October 27, 2019 | 12:29 AMNadine Wilson-Harris - Staff Reporter
A bag of transfusion blood

For every 100 women who turn up at the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) centre each month to donate, between 40 and 50 per cent are deferred.

Dr Alish Tucker, acting director of the NBTS, said anaemia is one of the primary reasons for the women being turned away.

“The Health and Lifestyle Survey has shown that one in four women, aged 15 years and older, are anaemic. This may result from nutritional deficiencies, poor replacement of iron lost through monthly menstrual cycle, as well as from diagnosed or undiagnosed medical disorders,” Tucker told The Sunday Gleaner.

There are several other reasons why Jamaicans have generally not been able to donate blood. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the target number of blood units should be 50,000 for this year, given the country’s population, but blood donations from January to August 2019 have totalled 24,000 units so far.

“The persons who have been told that they cannot give blood are usually informed about the reason for their deferral. The donor may have had recent tattoos and/or piercings; been recently treated for sexually transmitted illnesses; may have had a recent illness, or in the case of women, recent miscarriages/pregnancies,” Tucker explained.

About 20 to 25 per cent of men who try to donate blood are deferred.

Tucker said the organisation intends to dialogue more with the country and provide increased awareness and knowledge about the donation criteria and preparation for donation.

“Persons who decide to give blood need to be more aware of the locations and hours of operation of the blood collection centres, what to do in preparation to donate and what the criteria are to donate,” she advised.

“The criteria are made in order to ensure safe blood supply and [so that] a donor feels well after donation,” she said.

The NBTS is hoping to secure 35,000 units of blood by the end of 2019, and Tucker is encouraged by the fact that several groups have been donating. She is particularly pleased that social media is being utilised to rally more people to give.

Social media

“Similar to the rest of the world, Jamaicans are making use of social media in order to appeal to more people. Individuals can and it is admirable that many are using this medium to inform and appeal to the country,” she said.

About 20 per cent of those who give do so voluntarily. The other 80 per cent are replacement donors who give because friends, relatives, church members and/or co-workers need blood at a particular time. Dr Tucker is appealing for more Jamaicans to donate, given the demand for blood.

“NBTS wants persons to give as an altruistic measure to their country. None of us know when we or our loved ones will need blood or blood products to save our life or the life of someone who is dear to us. There are many in need of blood and it extends beyond patients who have been affected by violence or seemingly reckless behaviour,” she said.

“There are people who are alive today because they receive blood every week through someone’s generosity. Think on the multiplier benefits to families where the breadwinner is saved through blood donation. That family is preserved from grief and poverty.”