x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Blood donors are lifesavers to the ill

The World Health Organisation says there are about 92 million blood donations each year.

ABU DHABI // Every four weeks since he was six months old, Alaa Hatim Kuhail has, without fail, received a life-saving blood transfusion.

The 28-year-old Jordanian expatriate was born with thalassemia, a blood disorder that affects haemoglobin and the red blood cell count and his survival depends on regular transfusions.

The week before his monthly transfusion, Mr Kuhail said he often feels exhausted.

But after the seven-hour procedure, in which between three and four units of blood are transfused into his body, Mr Kuhail said he feels like a different person.

"I feel more energetic and more alive," he said.

Treatment for his condition would not be possible without regular blood donations from members of the public and Mr Kuhail wants to spread the word about the importance of giving blood.

"People should not take healthy blood for granted," he said. "If you have good, healthy blood it is important to help those who don't."

Saeed Jaafar Al Awadhi, a member of the board of directors for the Thalassemia International Federation, also suffers from the condition and requires 17 blood transfusions a year.

"Blood transfusions are the life-line for any thalassemic patient," said the 35-year-old, who had the condition diagnosed when he was just nine months old.

"I can make do without medications, but blood is essential for survival. Thalassemia is a chronic disease and there is no other solution but to undergo regular transfusions.

"Blood is precious - every drop helps save someone in need."

Um Saif, 24, had mild thalassemia diagnosed at the age of 18.

The mother of two, who often suffers fatigue because of the condition, said there should be more blood-transfusion centres in the UAE.

"Too often, people from other emirates are forced to go to Dubai just for blood transfusion," she said. "A blood-transfusion centre in every emirate would make residents' lives easier."

The World Health Organisation said there are about 92 million blood donations each year.

"The transfusion of blood and blood products helps to save millions of lives every year," said Dr Ala Alwan, regional director for the WHO in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

"It can help to improve life expectancy and the quality of life for patients suffering from life-threatening conditions. For example, blood may be needed to support a mother and her child during a complex birth, or to support a patient during surgery."

In many countries, she said, demand outstrips supply and blood services face the challenge of making blood available for all, while also ensuring its quality and safety.

"Blood donation saves lives and fulfils lives," Dr Alwan said. "In a blood bag there is more than just blood - there is life and generosity."

jbell@thenational.ae