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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

People from all walks of life answer call to donate blood

Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre extended its opening hours from 8am to 8pm to encourage people to visit and top up the nation’s blood banks.
Fahad Khamis, a soldier, donates blood at the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre, which is open during public holidays. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Fahad Khamis, a soldier, donates blood at the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre, which is open during public holidays. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

SHARJAH // Soldiers, students, police and taxi drivers were just some of those calling into the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre in the build up to National Day celebrations, to give blood to those who need it most.

The centre extended its hours from 8am to 8pm for the public holiday to encourage more people to visit and top up the nation’s blood banks.

First-time donors were put at ease by calming words from doctors and veterans of the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s latest campaign.

Sharjah police officer Mohamed Al Amiri, 26, was giving his blood for a fifth time, and reassured new donors they were offering the nation a great service helping those facing an uncertain future.

“People should not be afraid, it is a very easy process,” Mr Al Amiri said. “I have given blood four times before, the first time I was just 18.

“It is an important thing to do to help others and as long as you eat before and are prepared, there is no problem. My police colleagues and friends in the military have also been giving blood. We want to show an example to others.”

Donors undergo a brief physical examination to assess weight, blood pressure and general health.

Anyone wishing to offer blood must be aged between 18 and 60, and not have visited a country associated with malaria for at least 12 months. There is a one-month waiting period between donations.

Last National Day more than 100 donors gave blood and nurses are aiming to collect even more this year.

“I always try to reassure new donors,” said Dr Shimaa Hussein, medical director of the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre, which is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks.

“People should not worry. Blood is reproduced all of the time and it is a healthy thing to do. There are no religious restrictions – anyone can donate blood.”

Blood samples are placed into machines and spun at high speed to separate the platelets from blood plasma, so both can be used to treat different medical conditions, such as some cancers or liver disease.

Donations are delivered to 41 private and public hospitals and clinics around the country.

A mobile transplant unit capable of treating up to 80 donors a day regularly tours the country to collect blood. A second unit is due to hit the road early next year.

Doctors screen blood for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis and other diseases that make the blood unsuitable for transplant.

Blood banks are in particular need of AB negative, the rarest blood type. On average, only about 5 per cent of the population is AB negative.

IT student Faisal Al Ali, 23, started donating after being encouraged by his father.

“I wanted to help people and my father said this was a good way to start,” Mr Al Ali said. “I thought I would get dizzy or feel faint and fall over, but it was fine.

“After the first time I asked my friends to come along this year.”

Road traffic accidents and transfusions to help those suffering from leukaemia are some of the most common uses for the donations, and the demand is increasing as the populations grows.

“It takes just 8 to 10 minutes to withdraw 450 millilitres of blood, it is very easy to do,” said Dr Asmaa Amer, head of the blood-donation clinic.

“The machine keeps the blood moving to mix the anti-coagulants to stop it from clotting. After collection and separation we screen the blood, then it is issued to the clinics by specially modified vehicles with onboard refrigeration.”

The blood donor centre in Sharjah is open during the National Day and Commemoration Day public holidays, including Saturday.

nwebster@thenational.ae

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