By Peter Carolan in Seoul
In a spectacular series of events in Seoul, this year’s World Blood Donor Day, hosted by the Republic of Korea Government and the Korea National Red Cross, extended into the dark of evening with the capital ‘painted red.’ Two of the city’s main bridges and the huge Seoul N Tower were bathed in brilliant red lights in a dramatic and symbolic conclusion to this special day dedicated to voluntary, unpaid blood donors.
Earlier in the day, in a packed hotel ballroom, President of the Republic of Korea National Red Cross, Yu Jungkeun paid tribute to the tireless dedication of blood donors, not just in Korea, but all across the world. “ You are genuine heroes of society sharing your lives by giving blood,” she said.
This was a theme later explored in depth at a scientific symposium held at the same venue: blood experts from the world over joined with local Red Cross employees and volunteers and technical staff involved in blood service delivery to focus on self-sufficiency of blood and blood products based on blood donation.
A special feature of the 2012 World Blood Donor Day celebrations was the apparent melding of health care into social responsibility with not only individual blood donors awarded certificates of recognition, but also representatives from the corporate, public and private sector singled out for special acknowledgement.
Martin Faller, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent’s East Asia Regional Delegation, speaking on behalf of the organization’s President, Mr Tadateru Konoe said: “In our celebration of World Blood Donor Day, where we acknowledge that every blood donor is a hero, we have the perfect example of what can be achieved when public authorities partner with their own communities - partner with people themselves - to bring about health improvements.”
“The global community shares one common life-source: blood,” he said. “A common sense approach to the values of Humanity, Neutrality and Impartiality can help the world over to ensure donated blood goes to patients who need it, regardless of race, creed or ability to pay.
“Congratulations then to all voluntary blood donors. You are the cornerstone of an integrated strategy for blood safety, the lifeblood of a community. Your donation is an altruistic gift and not a marketable commodity. This places you in a unique position, demanding special respect and care, and at the same time it places a heavy responsibility on all involved in the blood service delivery process.”
Finally, it was left to one voluntary blood donor at the end of the day to thank Prime Minister Kim Hwangsik, a driving force behind this year’s celebration, for the special dinner which he hosted at his official residence. In doing so he noted that he found it hard to accept the gesture of blood donation being ‘heroic’.
It was a moving conclusion to an event which acknowledged the fact that around 92 blood donations are made each year. The World Health Organization representative attending the celebrations said: “The availability and safety of supply, the safety of both blood donors and recipients, and the appropriate use of blood, plasma and cellular blood donations is - and must remain - a public affair.”
The organizers and the international partners of IFRC, International Society of Blood Transfusion, the International Federation of Blood Donor Organizations and the World Health Organization, who together began World Blood Donor Day in 2004, will ensure this remains so.
Next year, the global effort to thank those who give so selflessly moves on to Paris.