x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Blood bank on donation drive

The head of the Dubai Blood Donation Centre would like to increase the number of people who make regular blood donations.

A man donates blood at the Blood Donation Centre in Al Wasl Hospital, Dubai.
A man donates blood at the Blood Donation Centre in Al Wasl Hospital, Dubai.

DUBAI //Mohammed Sayed, 2, plays table football at Al Wasl Hospital while his mother and father - and several nurses - look on.

While the little boy concentrates on the game, the adults keep a close watch for any effects from his blood transfusion - one of dozens he will need each year.

Mohammed was born with thalassaemia, a blood disorder that affects haemoglobin and the red blood cell count.

But soon, under a project run by Dr Laila Al Shaer, the head of the Dubai Blood Donation Centre (DBDC), his transfusion needs could be met by the same 12 people.

The project, which aims to increase the number of people who make regular blood donations (three or four a year) is a work in progress, Dr Al Shaer said.

Thalassaemia sufferers in the UAE require a total of about 15,000 transfusions a year - about 45 per cent of the DBDC's annual donations.

Thalassaemia patients each require an average of 34 donations a year.

"Based on these facts … I need to provide them with a continuous blood supplier," Dr Al Shaer said.

Overall, the project hopes to involve just over 5,000 regular donors.

"We hope to implement [this project], and once it is implemented, it will help us a lot to be relieved from the seasonal chronic shortfall of blood," she said.

The centre collects about 3,000 units a month but that number dropped by about 10 per cent during Ramadan and summer. While this does not mean there is a shortage, an increase in donors would reduce the gap in following years.

It will also help the 420 thalassaemia patients who are registered with the hospital all of whom require transfusions every three weeks.

"We are happy with this idea," said the toddler's father, Sayed Abdullah Ali, who makes the round trip to the hospital from his home in Fujairah every few weeks.

For Mr Ali, whose sister and brother also have the disease, it is thanks to regular blood donors that his son stays healthy.

The project, which will match donors to specific patients, will be a lifeline.

"I will present this project as a solution and if we apply it now, it will help us for next year," Dr Al Shaer said.

The centre has also begun plans to increase the number of blood collection sites in the city, she added.

"We are working on it and it should be achieved by the middle of next year. We expect to have in Rashid Hospital a mini collection site", with one in Dubai as well.

One of the minority of patients who no longer require transfusions, Karan Sethi, 19, of India, stressed the importance of donating, regardless of whether people know someone who needs it.

"Giving blood is helpful. If it doesn't help me, it helps someone else," Mr Sethi said.

"It will always have a direct effect on the person you are giving, and even though it is not helping you out it is helping someone who needs it."

zalhassani@thenational.ae