Every 14th day of June, countries around the world commemorate World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), established by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2004 to raise more awareness on the need for voluntary donation of safe blood and blood products to patients as well as thank volunteers for saving lives and encourage others to show empathy to those in need of blood.
In this interview, the Medical Director, S.S Memorial Hospital, Dr. Ejike Ihenacho, gives insight into this blood donation and its impediments.
Lack of blood in the human body could pose a threat to life. What could be the cause and how can we avoid shortage of blood?
Malaria and feverish cases, especially in children, can deplete blood. Other cases, like: bleeding, accidents of any kind, chronic diseases that affect body organs and other cases can also drain blood from the body. Thus, such patients need blood pronto to maintain their heart beats, but for those who are not in these categories, they should try to eat healthy vegetables for blood building, especially women who lose blood on natural course through heavy menstruation.
What are the challenges you encounter as a medical practitioner in blood requisition and availability?
Ii is a big challenge because of the HIV/AIDS prevalence, hepatitis and other communicable diseases. As a result, we at the private hospitals in Lagos, don’t transfuse blood, except blood from the Lagos State blood banks under the state ministry of health, which are safe for transfusion. This is so because screening blood ordinarily in a poorly equipped laboratory can give false results, and this makes a pint of blood expensive from the government blood bank, which not many can afford.
Why is it difficult to find donors?
People feel they may die if they donate blood or they don’t even have enough, let alone giving out. Also, some religious groups forbid it; some see it as superstitious. Besides, some patients also refuse blood donation because they feel they are taking another person’s life. In all, we don’t find it difficult to get blood from the Lagos State government blood bank or from a registered blood bank laboratory with Lagos State logo.
Does high or low blood pressure has anything to do with shortage of blood?
For a high blood pressure patient, any injury on him/she could be very dangerous because the blood is already on the rise; so the blood loss is much, especially when the arteries are involved. This happens mostly when we carry out surgeries. Low blood pressure does not mean shortage of blood in the body; such patient has nothing to do with blood transfusion.
How can you rate blood bank services in Nigerian hospitals?
In Lagos, where it operate, it’s sufficient from the Lagos State blood bank; but then, it’s not sufficient in all parts of the country for certain reasons.
If a patient needs blood but none is available, what could you do as alternative measure to save his life?
Availability of blood or otherwise is not the last hope for a dying patient. We can administer normal saline solution (water and salt) of 0.9 per cent sodium chloride; we also have blood expanders, and so many alternatives we deploy as a makeshift, just to keep the heart beating till we get blood.
Reports have it that not many are eligible to donate blood even though some persons are volunteering to do so. What could be the cause and what can be done to enhance safe blood donation?
It depends on the health conditions of the donor at that material time and the quantity of blood in his body. For instance, if the pack cell volume (PCV) of the donor is not up to 35 per cent he/she is not eligible to donate. He must be well nourish and look very healthy and free of any sickness at that time, but where the donor is free of any sickness, his blood must pass through thorough screening for minor illness before one can donate blood. He must not be sick as at the time he wants to donate blood. A thin person cannot donate blood even though he is very healthy because of his body structure.
Anybody who is sick of any illness at a time he wants to donate blood is not eligible to donate even though he has above 35 per cent PCV. This is because we can’t transfuse blood from a sick person to a patient. Someone with just cough and catarrh cannot donate blood; so it’s rare to see someone who is free from every sickness and still meet up with the minimum blood requirements in his own body before he can donate; it’s in rare cases, but we can screen some blood with a very few malaria parasite for transfusion. This is the main challenge!
Are there cases when a patient can get worse even if safe blood is donated and transfused?
In that case, something must be wrong somewhere. However, the doctor knows what to do.