Pooja Saxena in Delhi
There is a mixed crowd every morning in front of the Indian Red Cross building. Some come as a family, some alone. They range in age from two to 60 years old. All are directly or indirectly affected by thalassaemia.
The crowd has anxiety etched on their faces. They are here to register for the next blood transfusion and everything will depend on the availability of their blood group in the stock, or whether they can arrange a donor and a date to obtain blood.
Thalassaemia is a genetic disorder which affects the production of haemoglobin, a protein present in red blood cells.
The thalassaemia Society of India is playing a crucial role in creating awareness of the various forms of the disorder, and the Indian Red Cross has joined hands with this institution in providing free blood to thalassaemia patients.
In order to meet the ever increasing expectations of vulnerable people, the Indian Red Cross has a dedicated blood donor motivation campaign running through out the year. Dr Neera Bawa, head of the blood donor motivation cell, is constantly travelling, negotiating blood camps for the Society. She is well aware that much is expected of her department.
“Retention is the biggest challenge in blood donor motivation,” Dr Bawa says. “People have myths about blood donation that they might contract some disease. So to win their trust it is important to not only make them aware that everything is perfectly secure, but also how important it is for you to donate blood today.”
She adds that young people are more open to the notion of blood donation, and the Indian red Cross is eager to maintain this momentum: “We not only make them feel morally responsible for donating blood but also provide them with donor cards through which they can redeem the card at any blood bank in the form of blood, which gives them power to save somebody’s life at a time of need!”.
Nishi Sethi a volunteer and a mother of a thalassaemia child says her life now revolves around the hunt for donors. “My child has to have a transfusion twice a month. Because of this, I spend half the month arranging a donor. I can claim that I live in peace for only two weeks in every month.”
“I thank the Red Cross for helping us out in time of crisis and providing us with a gift of life,” she adds.
Mrs Sethi’s child Surbhi explains her eagerness to live in the words of American poet, Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep….”
During a blood donation camp in a five star hotel employees are encouraged to donate blood. A queue of youngsters, joined by a few middle-aged and to elderly people, waits to give blood. It is a clear indication that future, voluntary blood donation is going to gather momentum.
But there is a certain need to create more awareness and improve upon voluntary blood donation services through massive advertisement campaigns, with special emphasis on catching them young!