Dec 18, 2013

RT your blood

Everyday, alongside the witty comments, political wars and Sherlyn Chopra pictures that make up my twitter feed, there is also another set of tweets that catch my eye, one that I invariably end up retweeting (RT). They are the pleas for donating blood by people in distress. 
Somewhere, in some corner of the country, someone would be begging online for help to save someone they care about. They usually mention all the relevant details: the blood group, hospital, city and contact number. I retweet as many as I see across my timeline. But one thing does haunt me even after all these years of such retweets: does anyone ever come to the aid of those tweets? Do you honestly know anyone who has seen a retweet and taken a break from life to go and donate blood? Because I don't... and that saddens me. 
Blood donation will not do ANY harm to the donor. The criterion for being a donor is pretty lax too - above 17 years and 50 kilograms with no history of blood donation in the last 8 weeks; not an anaemic, no communicable diseases/cancer and no history of recent episodes of asthma attacks/flu or antibiotic therapy. That's pretty much it, give or take a few rare instances. It is as simple as that in the end. Which means the majority of us are actually eligible to donate. More significantly, roughly one in four Indians are anemic (sorry, ladies - you form the higher percentage within that group). Which means that in the unfortunate event of an accident, there is a one in four chance that you will need blood. 
Yet, we choose not to bother. Because, as in the case of road traffic accidents, it's 'better not to get involved', isn't it? I wish we could all move on from that myopic mindset and actually make an effort to help people. One ten rupee tetrapack mango juice and you would have replenished any weakness that you perceive from donating blood. What blood is taken from you will be formed in your body once more within the coming weeks; most importantly, you would have given someone a chance to live in that period.
Till date, I've donated blood six times over the last 13 years. I have no memory of the people who asked for my blood, the patients who received it and where they are today. I honestly never saw the point in keeping touch with them - they had less, they asked; we had extra, we gave. End of story. 
People don't ask for blood because it's fun. It isn't for fulfilling some secret fetish to be a glittering vampire like in those Twilight books. No. They ask for blood because someone they love is dying and they would do anything to keep him/her alive... even beg on a social media platform. You need to realize the significance of this plea - if it were you in their shoes and the ones you cared for the most were lying scared or unconscious in a dark operation theater/ ICU urgently needing blood, would you not send out an S.O.S. and pray that somewhere in that vast faceless space called Twitter, somebody would see your cry and come to your aid?
In the end, it's nothing more than a 140 letter message in your timeline. If you ignore it, nobody will judge you. If you respond to it, probably nobody will throw a parade for you. Still, as a doctor who has seen more blood pouring out of patients during operations than all the colas you've drunk in your life, I sincerely hope that the next time you see a plea for donating blood in your city, you will choose to respond. It will take one hour of your time, nothing more... but it will mean that someone gets to keep his father, mother or child.
November issue

Author's note: This was first published in Tamarind Rice's November 2013 issue in my column "An Appletini A Day..."