Monday, October 14, 2013

The Life Giving Red : a public interest post.

This  is, what might be called , a post , in the public interest.

I have been an active blood donor,  before age and other factors disqualified me. The offspring now continue this tradition.

 And living as I do on an academic campus, where blood donation camps are held with great regularity , one tends to notice things, like fewer women, and a general willful ignorance of these camps, from folks who feel it is a very risky thing to do. (While looking for volunteers , ready to donate blood, many years ago, for a major surgery in a colleague's family, it once came to a point where folks crossed the road to the other side when they saw me coming.  :-)....    )

And so I thought I would outline the various steps that happen at a blood donation camp, when you approach.  This was held on Aug 12, 2013 in one of the huge halls on campus.

To begin with, you are welcomed and guided to a table where you fill out your personal details, and your health details.  They ask if you have recently been sick, if you've had any infectious diseases, and if so when . Also, if you have taken certain drugs when sick. Or otherwise .  Whether you smoke......

They want to know what vaccinations you have taken and when.  Questions are asked about whether you suffer from certain specific diseases, whether you take regular medicines for any medical problems, eg insulin, thyroid medication, hypertension medication .

If you have tattoos, you need to say how long ago you got them done . If you clear this step, you go to the next, else go home.

You then get on to a weighing scale. You get disqualified as a blood donor if you are less than a specified acceptable weight. 
 You then approach a desk with this form, and a blood technician pricks your finger with a disposable needle, and slips the drop into a beaker of cooper sulfate (blue solution).

If your haemoglobin is greater than 12.5, the blood drop sinks to the bottom. Else it remains dispersed on top, and you are prohibited from donating blood.

Once the lady has entered and documented your data, you proceed to the next desk, where some more paper processing happens, and you are then given a thick (probably layered) numbered blood bag , the number registered against your details.


You are now allocated a bed, and a doctor checks your blood pressure before proceeding.

A disposable syringe/needle is  inserted into a vein in your arm, and it is all taped in securely. You are given a flexible ball to squeeze every now and then which aids in a proper flow of blood .

The blood smoothly flows into the  blood bag  you were given which already contains blood chemicals to keep the blood at the correct density.  The blood bag sits on a weighing scale and is an exact pointer regarding how much blood is being collected.

The amount of blood collected is 350 mls. (Actually, the bag already contains 150 grams of anticoagulant, so only 200 gms of your blood is collected ;  This fact brought to my notice by the 3rd commenter on this post - a doctor)

Here is a picture  of a student blood donor in action.  There are several doctors making the rounds of all the beds where donors are giving blood, ensuring that everything is OK, and that there is no discomfort for the patient. 

Once the 350 mls of blood  are collected, the needle inserted in the vein is removed,  the aperture is patted with a piece of sterilised cotton, and you lie down and rest for 10 minutes, with your arm bent at the elbow.
 A small amount of your blood is poured into small appropriately labelled test tube like  things with lids.  This allows your blood to be tested for certain things before the entire blood bag can be taken for further processing into usable sections, like platelets, plasma etc.

 If anything untoward is detected in your blood, your collection is discarded.

A picture of the labelled blood bags in their special containers may be see here.

Once you get up, you are welcomed with some tea , lemonade or refreshments like biscuits , in another part of the hall.

A technician removes the cotton wool, checks your arm , cleans the needle insertion point with spirit, and puts a pucca sticking tape across it.

You are now ready to go. Home, to your office, to play, or anywhere else. I know some overenthusiastic type who even went swimming a few hours later.

But you must collect your certificate and blood donation card before you go.  This mentions your reference number in their register, and allows you to to help out anyone in need of blood  , by giving them this card to use at a blood bank.

 We were visited by the doctors, and technical staff of the KEM  Hospital , which is one of Mumbai's very well known and old  public hospitals.

This was the bus that brought them , their staff, their materials, and instruments.

Regardless  of how modern, fancy, capable and clever the blood donation handling staff is, and how spacious the premises are, nothing happens without the co-operation of  the local folks.

This is a tee shirt rear view, displaying the name of a student organization called  "Samvaad" on campus that involves itself in social causes.  I met several volunteers of this organization at this blood donation camp, and students  generously donate every year.

The entire  thing is organized tirelessly , year after year, by the Sthaniya Lokadhikar Committee and I was told that they also belong to a  Mumbai blood donors group, that is often contacted for unusual blood group requests, and have had the honor of having one of their donors go to Chennai for a special donation of blood which was urgently required. 

Something, you can safely do , say twice a year. Your blood gets separated and used as platelets , plasma, and other things , and different individuals in need get the benefit from a single donation.

Some folks say, they cannot bear the sight of blood.  

Just think. If you can actually learn to bear the sight, you might be able to help someone in an emergency somewhere .

All it takes, is some encouraging company, a strong belief,  and half and hour at the most.



  1. Wish more people did this (donate blood)

  2. I've been a blood donor for much of my adult life, and am amazed by the ignorance and fear that surrounds this simple, humane, life giving process. Your post is so systematically written and illustrated that it should ease the fears of many potential donors. Great job!!!

    1. Dipali, Thank you ! I've been doing posts about this every time the kids donate. Just thought I should do a detailed process post, in case folks wanted to know how it was done... Hope many more people come forward and donate .....

  3. The bag contains 150 ml of anticoagulant and only 200 ml of blood is drawn from person together it makes 350 ml.

    1. A1, I stand corrected. Have incorporated this piece of info in the post . Thank you!

  4. Hi,
    I have been a long time reader of your blog but have never commented. My SIL's FIL who is 86 years old is getting a bypass surgery in Bandra on Nov 1. They are looking for O+ blood. Will you have any contacts who can help by donating blood? Appreciate your help with this.


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