Everybody wants to be a Hero but nobody wants to put in the hours. Don’t get me wrong neither do I. I am simply unable to find the time between studying, learning a new language, working and keeping up relations to put on tight spandex and jump about rooftops swooping down to save the day. So I found a lazy workaround and alternative. It’s easier, doesn’t require as much cardio as being in top crime-fighting condition and gives me the same warm fuzzy feeling. And you know the best part? You could do it too! You could be a Hero! Once every three months in fact!
How? Simple. By being a voluntary blood donor. Blood is essential for human life. It is a vital liquid necessary for the transport of substances, nutrients and oxygen to the cells. Pumped by the heart (or an equivalent structure) to all parts of the body, after which it is returned to repeat the process. Safe blood saves lives. And you save potentially three lives every time you donate.
How could such a simple act be heroic? Why is donating blood a heroic feat?
There is currently no substitute for human blood. Despite more than 70 years of research, scientists have been unable to develop an ideal blood substitute. Its roles are simply too complex to be emulated with the technology of our time.
Blood is needed by women with complications during pregnancy and childbirth, children with severe anemia, often resulting from malaria or malnutrition, accident victims, surgical and cancer patients, one of whom was my mother.
Diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a form of cancer of the lymphatic system- which is responsible for the body’s immune response. The doctors believed that my mother might require blood transfusions. During this health scare, we needed several blood donors.
At the time I was in college and most of my classmates willingly came forward to donate in our time of need. I cannot thank their generosity enough. However, if I weren’t in college and our family happened to recently move into the city away from friends and family then who could we have turned to for blood donors?
Enter, blood organisations and groups.
- Rotary Blood Bank
- Indian Red Cross Society
- Sankalp India Foundation
- Athar Blood Bank
- National Blood Transfusion Council
We would have to inquire if there was an availability of blood elaborating on our need for it and depending on the severity of the medical emergency our name would be added to a list. After which blood donors would be contacted for aide or blood bags assigned. But the list is long and time is of the essence in any medical situation. Blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person –it is the gift of life. A decision to donate your blood can save a life or even several.
This pandemic has shown us that Hero’s don't necessarily wear capes or spandex. They don’t leap off of tall buildings and they certainly don’t have big burly muscles. Well… maybe some do. Nevertheless, everyone on that list needs a HERO. We need each other. And we need You. As David Bowie said ‘we could be Heroes, just for one day.’
Hero’s aren’t personalities who happen to be larger than life. They’re everyday people; who just choose to be, larger than the problem.
So, who can donate?
Anybody who is in good health can donate. The blood service usually inquires about your medical history including medication and current health and lifestyle before drawing any blood.
All blood services get their blood collection done by medical professionals only, this ensures that no one comes under any harm. Furthermore, if you have a cold, flu, sore throat, cold sore, stomach bug or any other infection you cannot donate. Make sure you get a full night’s rest and don’t skip any meals on or before the day of donation. Also, avoid any caffeinated beverages right before the time of donation. The dramatic spike in blood pressure due to caffeine means you’ll have to wait until it drops back down to normal levels.
Those of you who have recently had a tattoo or body piercing cannot donate for 6 months from the date of the procedure. If the body piercing was performed by a registered health professional and any inflammation has settled completely, you can donate blood after 12 hours.
If you have visited the dentist for a minor procedure you must wait 24 hours before donating; for major work wait a month. Remember you must not donate blood If you do not meet the minimum hemoglobin level for blood donation.
All of these conditions and prerequisites are inquired and checked beforehand by a medical professional during a questionnaire session before donation. Once you have been deemed ‘healthy’ and ‘able’ for a donation they will conduct a blood grouping test before finally sending you to the blood donation area. Do consult with your local physician or doctor before donating.
The whole procedure should last only about 20 minutes in total. From questionnaire to blood grouping and collection.
Would it Hurt?
Not at all. The only thing you feel is two pinpricks. One for the blood grouping test and the other for the actual collection. It’s similar to a quick pinch on the arm. I use the time I get during the donation to sit and meditate and reflect on the last three months. It’s that peaceful. The whole procedure should last only about 20 minutes in total. From questionnaire to grouping and collection. For more information refer to WHO page on blood donation.
How many Heroes do we need?
India has the world’s largest shortage of blood. This was made painstakingly evident during the first and second waves of COVID. With demand outstripping supply by over 400%. All states together are battling a huge shortfall of 41 million units of blood. Why does our country require so much blood? Because India relies heavily on transfusions due to a higher prevalence of blood-borne diseases and complications during pregnancy.
India relies heavily on transfusions due to a higher prevalence of blood-borne diseases and complications during pregnancy.
The WHO recommends that for every 1,000 people in any country, a target of 10–20 donors is needed to provide adequate supplies. For India however, as per government data, 34 per 1,000 eligible people must donate blood once a year to address the estimated clinical demand. This proportion can be reduced in the event of the promotion of repeat voluntary non-remunerated blood donation.
Wait we have a billion people how is there a blood crisis in India?
Yes, through sheer numbers if 10 in every 1000 of us did donate, the country’s blood demands would disappear overnight. However, not everyone meets the standards specified above for donation.
On top of that, there is a prevalent myth that blood donation reduces masculinity in males. What absolute rubbish, haven’t you seen any old Bollywood movie ever? The hero almost always gets shot in the chest and bleeds profusely everywhere hours on end. Terrifying death itself with his ultra-masculine desire to prevail despite the hole in his chest. Have you learnt anything from them? If you too would like death to be terrified of you, flirt with it by donating vital body fluids once every three months. Nothing could be manlier.
The second myth is that it causes fatigue and that we do not have enough blood in our bodies and so mustn’t donate. Both of which are false. Donors receive refreshments to replenish lost fluids and after an hour you can even get back to work. Only one pint of blood is donated while an average person has between 8 to 12 pints of blood in their body.
Are there any side effects?
Yes, a warm fuzzy feeling that you did something selflessly nice followed by an understanding of how truly awesome you are which feeds into your God-complex once it dawns on you that you have given the greatest gift, the gift of life to three people. And you could choose to do it again.
The universe tries very hard to make life not possible and here you are conspiring against it.
Remember “With great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”
So, what now? What would you do with all your power?