Madurai Blood donors, an online page on Facebook, is a group of dedicated youngsters working towards a common lifesaving cause

It was little before midnight in last November, when Srinivasan Natchiappan, an NRI from Singapore urgently needed five units of B positive for his father who was battling death at a private hospital in Madurai. Srinivasan turned to facebook as he knew no one in the city and was fortunate to find ‘Madurai Blood donors’, a group page. He posted his requirement and within two hours, a donor saved his father’s life. Many such posts keep pouring in on this online page. (!/groups/boom.rcofmaduraipandiyan/)

The people behind are youngsters from various walks of life driven towards donating little drops of the life-saving fluid. Started a year ago with nine members, the fb page currently has over 3,700 donors from all over the State and has so far donated nearly 800 units of blood. “Initially we came up with a project called ‘Boom’ (Blood donors of Madurai) and went around donating blood. But to increase visibility and accessibility we started an fb page., Over the past year, more than half of the demand comes from the page,” says Vigneshwaran, one of the core members of the group. “Nowadays, we get calls and requests from all over and our work is not just restricted to Madurai.”

Starting spark

The spark to start this came from a little girl’s painting at a competition.Vigneshwaran reminiscences, “The painting said, ‘when can you share, why to shed?’’ Apart from donating and arranging for blood for people in need, the members also give talks in colleges and schools to sensitize the youth to the issue. “Many are still apprehensive of giving blood. Some are superstitious while many have misconception that taking 350ml of blood may weaken the body,” says Charan. “Moreover, there are many private hospitals that charge for blood given by volunteers. They sell blood and often uneducated people fall prey. We are against selling blood and have fought at private hospitals. We mostly donate only to the GRH here.”

“Blood is something so precious and can’t be priced. And when a volunteer willingly donates his blood, how can someone else sell it to the recipient,” says Ranjith Kumar who has also designed the logo for the group. “I am currently making a short film on blood donation. I have made four short films on various social issues and we screen them in colleges and schools.”

Shiva, an active blood donor of the group was once reluctant to donate. An evening converted him into a regular donor. He recollects, “I was told that a woman in critical condition needs O positive but I was not very keen. Later, my friends took me to the hospital and seeing the patient’s plight, I was moved. From then, I have been regularly giving blood every three months.”

Tracking donors

“The demand is always high from GRH. and How much ever we donate, there is always a shortage. Keeping track of donors and their blood groups is also very difficult,” says Satish. MCA students Esaki, Xero and Guru have designed software for the government hospital to maintain a database of blood donors, groups and recipients. “Yet, many times, finding the right donor at the right time is not easy.”

Whenever someone knocks their door for blood, the members of Boom make calls, coordinate and network with people to find a donor. “Most times, we also arrange for transporting the donor,” says Vigneshwaran. He lauds the efforts of certain regular donors in the city. “A welder in Sellur and a petty shop owner in Arapalayam are regular donors. They are ready anytime though they have rare blood groups.”

Boom, also coordinates with other blood donors’ organizations such as Mubarak in Mapalayam and Christian Church clubs. “Once even a political party approached us to conduct blood donation camps on the birthday of their leader,” beams Charan. “But, we are not much into camps as most blood is sold by hospitals and a large quantity also gets wasted.”

These youngsters take pride in what they do. “Recipients see you as god. And the satisfaction you get after donating blood for someone is immense,” says Das. “We are planning to organize a ‘Go red’ campaign,” says Srirenganathan, the mentor of the group. Boom is an initiative of the Rotaract Club of Madurai Pandiyan, an extended arm of Rotary Club.