Transfusing life

TWELVE-YEAR-old Sunaina was sitting erect on the bed, her legs crossed in front of her, a storybook in her right hand. After some time, she took time off from her book to join the children on the beds beside hers, in their innocent chatter. It all looked quite normal till I noticed that each one of them had needles and tubes piercing their tiny arms and carrying blood into their little bodies. It was only later that I knew that if not for the ruddy drops that made their way in, they would die. These kids were victims of thalassemia and were at the Arun Kumar Day Care Centre, part of the Rotary TTK Blood Bank, at Thippasandra.

The Rotary TTK Blood Bank began as a voluntary unit working out of the TTK office on Infantry Road. The Rotary Club of Bangalore joined the effort and the partnership gave birth in 1984 to the Bangalore Medical Services Trust (BMST), which functions on a `no profit' basis.

The Bank collects blood from voluntary donors (paid donation is banned), after screening for syphilis, malaria, Hepatitis C and HIV I and II. It also has the facility to separate blood into its components to optimise utility. Says Dr. Mrinalini, consultant pathologist at TTK: "When the blood donated is split into its components such as plasma, platelets, red blood cells, etc., you save not one, but three or four lives."

While haemophilia patients need to be transfused whenever they have any accidental cuts or bruises, thalassemia patients have to necessarily be transfused once every three to four weeks throughout their lives.

The Arun Kumar Day Care Centre provides transfusion and other services for patients with thalassemia, haemophilia and other haematological disorders, and performs about 100 transfusions a month.

Transfusing life

A rigid quality control and quality assurance programme is followed, which ensures blood safety. Dr. Latha Jagannathan, Medical Director and Managing Trustee, BMST, says: "Donor screening ensures that they are sufficiently educated and aware of `risk behaviour' (unprotected sex with strangers and commercial sex workers, multiple sexual partners and intravenous drug abuse), which prove fatal for the recipient."

Donors are given a booklet that explains the criteria and fitness for donation as well as any need for permanent or temporary deferral of such donation. A consent form is also provided.

The BMST, together with hospitals such as Kidwai and Victoria, is also involved in conducting blood donation camps for several leading corporates and MNCs as well as colleges throughout Bangalore. Lakshmi Ravichandran, honorary trustee, says she has been able to rope in more than 150 corporates so far.

The BMST also conducts research on blood safety, studies risk-behaviour among youth and is part of the nationwide research and awareness programme on thalassemia.

The trust conducts STD and HIV/AIDS awareness, education and preventive intervention programmes for schools, colleges, industries and slums. Its family life values and lifeskills education programme concentrates on young children right from Standard I.

Maybe you can visit a blood donation centre on your next birthday or your child's birthday and give to someone, the best gift yet. Any donation is noble. And donation of blood is the noblest of all, because it can save a life. You can contact TTK Blood Bank on 5287903/ 5293486.

THE FACTS about blood donation:

*Anyone between the age of 18 and 55 years, declared medically fit and weighing not less than 45 kg. in weight, can donate blood.

*An average man has about five litres of blood in his body.

*Only 350 to 450 ml. is collected per donation (less than 1/10th the blood in your body).

*It takes just 24 to 48 hours to regenerate the blood that you donate in quantity and two to three weeks in quality.

*A healthy human can donate blood once every three months.