Donate blood and share the gift of life

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AS a nation, we are sometimes preoccupied with a lot of seemingly important endeavours at the expense of simple but vital issues that could mean the difference between life and death. One such issue is the availability of blood or lack thereof, which only seems to become important when we really need the life-giving fluid.

In this edition, we publish a story in which the Lesotho Blood Transfusion Services (LBTS) has rung alarm bells over an acute blood shortage. So severe is the shortage, that relatives of patients needing the vital fluid have had no option but to donate blood to save their loved ones’ lives.

However, according LBTS Manager ‘Maleqhoa Nyopa, such hurried donations would be a sad case of too little, too late as the agency needs at least 10 cartons of blood at a time to test and process the blood. The process cannot be undertaken hurriedly because they have to check the blood for various diseases before giving it the all-clear. That would spell doom for the intended beneficiary if they needs the blood right away.

This only goes to show that a selfish and short sighted approach to the blood supply issue is bound to fail because there is no guarantee for anybody to access the fluid if an accident or medical condition were to require a transfusion.

In any case, experts say over the course of our lifetime, 25 percent or more of us will require a blood transfusion at least once. And even if that is not necessarily you, it could quite easily be a loved one or somebody in your community who needs blood to save their life.

Whatever the reason may be, the need for blood is constant. Safe blood is needed to saves lives and treat people suffering from various health conditions. These include women with pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancies and haemorrhage before, during or after childbirth. Children with severe anaemia due to malnutrition and other causes, as well as surgical and cancer patients also need blood transfusions to survive.

Apart from the aforementioned cases, the need for blood never stops at health centres. Hospitals need blood donations to save lives, not only in cases of emergency but also for undertaking long-term treatments.

So the question is, why aren’t more of us sharing this gift of life? It is true that a good number of us are keen to donate but are deterred by medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure and hepatitis among others. Excluding such exceptions, there is still a large portion who, despite being healthy are not giving blood.

That is certainly a selfish and shortsighted approach because no one knows what the future holds. You can be brimming with health today and get in an accident tomorrow. In any case, giving blood is such simple and fulfilling procedure. One pint can save up to three lives, yet it is astonishing that the practice is on the wane. What on earth is stopping us?

Health practitioners say when you donate about a pint of blood, your body will automatically begin to replenish the lost blood and produce new red blood cells that will allow your body to carry oxygen more efficiently. That means it is a win-win scenario for both the giver and beneficiary.

The temporary suspension of the school blood donation programme should serve as a wakeup call to all healthy Basotho regardless of creed and class to do the responsible thing by giving blood. Religious organisations and civil society need to be at the forefront of blood donation campaigns. The perennial shortage of blood is not being given the attention it deserves in the public sphere.

As a society, we cannot depend on schoolchildren as the only source of such a vital resource. Countless productive lives are being unnecessarily lost merely because there is no blood.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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