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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Dubai patient's urgent need for blood transfusion puts the spotlight on dwindling reserves in hospitals

Donors from as far afield as Oman respond to help grandfather in need, but there remain longstanding shortages

Stephen Collins, pictured at Medcare Hospital in Dubai, needed a blood transfusion but there is a citywide shortage of A-negative. Leslie Pableo for The National
Stephen Collins, pictured at Medcare Hospital in Dubai, needed a blood transfusion but there is a citywide shortage of A-negative. Leslie Pableo for The National

SIDE STORY: 'We always need new donors:' Medics urge UAE residents to give blood but strict controls remain

Feeling faint and short of breath, British Dubai resident Stephen Collins had no idea he was in urgent need of a blood transfusion.

The 64-year-old had just returned from a brief holiday in the UK when he began to feel unwell on Sunday.

What happened next has exposed the urgent need for donors to come forward and replenish ever-decreasing stocks of the rarest blood types.

Doctors at the Medcare Hospital near Safa Park were cautious of carrying out further tests on Mr Collins after discovering his haemoglobin blood levels (Hb) were dangerously low.

A low Hb count in men is considered less than 13.5 grams per decilitre of blood, but Mr Collins’s had dropped to just 6.3.

Further tests revealed his blood type was A-negative, one of the rarer groups, and existing supplies at the Dubai Blood Donation Centre were running low.

His daughter Rachael Drinkwater issued an urgent appeal for donors in a series of social media posts.

Within an hour, the first of 12 donors to come forward was supplying the vital blood Mr Collins needed to set him on the road to recovery.

“These wonderful people came from nowhere, and from all nationalities to help me, a stranger,” Mr Collins, a project director at Siemens, told The National.

“When I was told I needed several donors, I didn’t know what to do.

“I’ve joked with my family for spending time on social media, to find out the price of avocados or what the next brunch is, but I was glad how it helped me by encouraging people to give blood.

“It has helped restore my faith in human nature. It’s emotional just thinking about the incredible response.”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 19 SEPTEMBER 2018-Stephen Colins with Dr. Emad Fayyad and his daughter needed a blood transfusion but there is a shortage of A-blood type and asking for donors at Medcare Hospital, Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National for Nick Webster’s story
Stephen Collins and his daughter Rachael look at test results with Dr Emad Fayyad. Leslie Pableo for The National

Mr Collins was overwhelmed by the public reaction to his plight, and broke down when re-telling his experience of the past few days.

The unexplained blood loss has since been attributed to haemorrhoids, swollen veins that had ruptured and have now been corrected by a brief surgery.

He is expected to be back on his feet soon and was encouraged to change his diet and take more exercise to avoid similar problems in the future.

Although she is the same A-negative blood group, Rachael was on a course of antibiotics so was unable to donate.

“Dad is overweight, but he is a big personality and usually so bouncy,” she said.

“One of his best friends passed away, and he had some dental issues and had travelled back to the UK, so there had been lots of stressful things going on.

“We assumed that was why he was feeling so tired.

“It was a very steep learning process for us about blood transfusions in the UAE and the need for certain blood types.”

By noon on the day of the appeal, 11 more donors had come forward offering to give blood, some from as far afield as Oman.

Police officers speak to a medic as they give blood in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Hospitals say they need more members of the public to do the same. Courtesy: AD Police
Police officers speak to a medic as they give blood in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Hospitals say they need more members of the public to do the same. Courtesy: AD Police

Mr Collins had three blood transfusions in total, and received 1.4 litres of blood from donors.

The first of those donors was Nina Jorgensen, from Denmark, whose children go to the same Safa Community School as Rachael’s children.

“I used to give blood in Denmark, but with my job I was travelling a lot so it was not always easy to donate,” said Mrs Jorgensen, who has two children.

“I was grocery shopping waiting for Carrefour to open when I read the appeal on the school’s Facebook page.

“I wanted to help straight away.

"It was scary that the blood bank for this particular type was empty."

“I didn’t know Rachael or Stephen but I wanted to help, like many others. It is always worrying when you have loved ones who are ill.”

Mrs Jorgensen said she is looking in to starting a blood donor campaign among parents at the school to help increase stocks.

There are eight main blood groups, A, B, AB and O, either positive or negative.

Blood type is determined by the genes inherited from parents. 'Negative' blood groups less common.

“None of us knew about the blood situation here in the UAE so it has been positive to be able to highlight the situation,” Mr Collins said.

“The response was heartwarming. I have so much respect for the people living here. They didn’t know me, but wanted to help.

“This should encourage people to give blood as there is a desperate need for some types.”

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