More citizens in Goa should volunteer to donate blood and help save precious lives. This is the hope of doctors at the Blood Bank, Goa Medical College and Hospital as the nation observes National Voluntary Blood Donors’ Day today, October 1.
“The gift of blood is an invaluable gift one can give to any person as it helps to save life,” Says Dr M V Mallya, in-charge of the GMC’s Blood Bank. The message outside his office wall is pithy: “Tears of a mother cannot save her child. But your blood can.” Interestingly, the fact is that one donation can save, not just one, but three lives. The emphasis is on ‘voluntary’ blood donors - people who donate blood on their own free will without any compulsion.
“It is difficult to get voluntary blood donors during lean periods; we have to then fall back on ‘replacement’ blood donors,” says Dr Sangeeta Amoncar, MD Pathology - GMC. Replacement donors are those who donate blood to replace the blood transfused into their sick relative/friend.
“We face problems of blood shortage in lean periods especially festive seasons like Ganesh Chaturthi, Christmas, Diwali and college vacations, when everyone is holidaying” says Dr Sangeeta.
The annual requirement of blood at the GMC Blood Bank is about 20,000 units. In the last five years, the Blood Bank’s collection is in the range of 18,000 units of blood per year. The demand for blood is expected to rise in coming years; hence the need for more Voluntary blood donors. Every year during monsoon, the Blood Bank faces shortage of platelets due to the high number of dengue cases,” says Dr Merline Augustine, assistant lecturer, Blood Bank, GMC.
The Blood Bank ensures that no patient loses life for want of blood, even in emergencies where victims of motor vehicle accidents are involved. “Gynaec patients in labour sometimes have bleeding complications post-delivery and sometimes require high volumes of blood transfusions,” says Dr Merline.
In 2023 (January to August), a total of 13,848 persons donated blood. Of these, 9804 were voluntary blood donors at blood donation camps conducted across Goa. The remaining 4044 were replacement blood donors. The number of registered voluntary blood donors with the GMC Blood Bank is quite low – just 1365.
Donating blood is simple. Males can donate blood every three months and females every four months. Strict checks are carried out to ensure that donors are not subject to any risk. The Blood Bank conducts health check-ups on donors to ensure he/she is fit to donate blood. “There is no danger to the donors’ health whatsoever,” said Dr Sangeeta.
During the Covid crisis, the GMC Blood Bank saw quite a surge in voluntary blood and plasma donations, especially from youngsters. In those dark Covid days, when plasma therapy was used heavily, the dire need for blood was met by a group of young people who donated blood repeatedly. “They became like Blood Bank family,” says Dr Sangeeta.
Altruism – to help others – was their only motivation. One of them is Pranav Parrikar, 26-year-old civil engineer from Mapusa. Pranav has been donating blood since he turned 18. He went the extra mile during Covid days, mobilizing friends to donate blood. “You save lives by donating blood at no cost to yourself. Blood donation is very common in countries like Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. I think it is our basic duty; everyone should do it. We need no applause for this,” says Pranav.
College student Faizan Saifee (21) from Bicholim, and Homeopath Dr Yogesh Desai (39), from Khorlim, also turned regular blood donors after turning 18 - only “to help others” in need. While Faizan does social work through an NGO, Dr Yogesh helps arrange blood donation camps regularly through the Primary Health Centre, Khorlim.
Panjim-based engineer Devansh Cholera (27), and Bicholim fashion designer Shanaida Matias donate blood because their blood group is quite rate. “To help someone you don’t even know, is a great feeling,” said Shanaida. Majorda-resident and GMC Blood Bank technician Piedade Fernandes learnt the importance of donating blood, first as a student and later, during her father’s open-heart surgery.
Some major donors to the blood bank include pharma companies, telecom companies, units of the Army like 5TTR, 6TTR, 3MTR, Naval units like INHS Jeevanthi, Vasco and INS Mandovi, Verem, Coast Guard and
“On request, they arrange blood donation camps, sometimes even 3 or 4 times a year. They have never showed reluctance and it helps us greatly in lean periods,” says Dr Sangeeta. Other regular donors include Rotary Club and Lions Club, Sarthak Foundation, Caring Souls, Nanasaheb Dharmadhikari Trust and businessman Gaurish Dhond.
October 1 was declared as National Voluntary Blood Donation Day by its founder President, Prof JG Jolly of Indian Society of Blood Transfusion and Immunohaematology, to share the need and importance of blood in the life of an individual.
“The GMC Blood Bank is fairly well equipped and comparable to any of the best blood banks in the country. GMC Dean Dr S M Bandekar always supports implementation of newer advances in Blood Bank in terms of equipment, manpower and technology,”
Dr Mallya said.
Goa has two more government-run blood banks, one each at the Asilo hospital (Mapusa) and the Hospicio (Margao) where citizens can go and - as the Blood Bank booklet says – Donate Blood, Save Many Lives (Not Just One).