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..."


Donate Blood ! Save a Life !!
I have seen even relatives of patients not willing to donate blood in emergency because of some general myths about Blood Donation. You may love reading and sharing this with your friends and patients.
Anonymous said…
I personally have donated blood quite a few times and do so regularly. In fact in the company I work for, I have noticed that quite a few people respond to the location-wide 'Blood Required' mails that are circulated by the HR team.
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My husband donates blood whenever there is an opportunity to do so. The first time I resorted to donate blood was in college. It was a blood donation campaign. However I was singled and sent back to class as the minimum weight of the donor had to be 50 kgs. Thanks to hostel food, I weighed hardly 48kgs. :-/ I couldnt donate even after that due to numerous obstacles that came my way. But I support it and so does my family. Great article, read it already on TR.
Ugich Konitari said…
You know, i've been a regular blood donor since college( I am 64 now) , and now my children donate, since they disqualified me because of age (though nobody knows whats the upper limit of age). Every year I do a post on this, and this year, i did this post to inform folks how systematic and easy it is.


People have actually crossed across roads on our campus (to avoid meeting me) seeing me come, when we were looking for blood donors for someone's heart bypass operation many years ago . There are those who give syringes a bad name and doubt everyone from a distance. And then there are those who have what I call a sense of blood superiority; they simply conserve it ).

I am so glad you wrote this... Maybe more will come forth after seeing a doctor writing about this ....
Karanth S R said…
Don't know about the tweets, but i know that people get connected to donors through SMS and Email.

Thanks for another Educating post, it would have been better if you had mentioned about the various myths about blood donation vs the facts. Will share this post.

Proud to say that i have donated blood and ready to donate whenever needed. Unfortunately, mine is a very common group and rarely get a chance to donate :(
Kathy Combs said…
I have donated blood in the past when asked too. For my mom and for my dad. Passed dead away both times and had to be brought too with smelling salts but I was glad to do it...LOL. It is important to donate when it is needed and can be lifesaving. So glad you highlighted this today. ♥
Michelle Liew said…
I'm a bit too light to give blood...but honestly would because it was given to me when I needed it. This is so moving, Roshan.
Richa Singh said…
I have myself every month volunteered for the blood donation camp but they tell me my weight and haemoglobin levels is not apt for it. But almost every second month, husband goes and donates blood :-) and yes I believe those RTs on twitter do help :-)

Thanks for the link.. and yes, even I've seen relatives refuse to donate during dire emergencies with silly reasons. Very disheartening and frustrating
That's really heartening to hear. As docs, we always find patients struggling to find blood during emergencies...
Its a lot tougher for women... as I said, many reasons, not least of which is that 1 in 4 women in India are anemic themselves. Kudos to your hubby :D
Sad to hear that people's prejudices remain. They dont realise how one day it could be someone they care about needing the same blood. And God - really hate those who say "why should we give? It's our blood!"
Usually we study upper age limit as 70.. but I can see why people would be worried taking from borderline age group.
Glad to hear atleast via sms and emails, the message gets spread...
Didn't wanna go too technical since that would make it a true medical post (and you know how i hate medical posts, what with me being a doc and all :D )
Mine is the commonest group too.. doesnt matter.
really? passed out! wow :D
And yes, donating in advance when asked can be really good... can help the blood be ready during emergencies instead of having to go around hunting.
True.. there is ideally a weight limit placed (50kgs).. luckily, I've never had that issue (underweight) for over 2 decades now !
True... as I mentioned, weight is a criteria and 1 in 4 women in India are anemic.
Ideally, I would suggest your hubby make it once in 4 months. It takes 120 days for red blood cells to form again..
I sincerely hope those RTs work... I would like to think they do anyway.
Pink Mango Tree said…
Nice to see it coming from a doctor. I see you assuming responsibility :)
However I feel these days people donate blood without much hesitation. Whenever there is a blood donation camp held at office, close to 75% of the employees donate blood.
Bushra Muzaffar said…
A good reminder to promote blood donation. Thanks for sharing your views on this.
Binu Thomas said…
Informative post on blood donation doctor.. I have also donated blood many times. I guess things are changing now-a-days and the response to blood donation campaign is increasing with every passing year..

We never know when our donated blood can save someone's life!
I do, if the plea is from my city. Usually there is a phone number... I call and obtain the details. But strangely, the unknown person on the other end says that they have already made certain arrangements, and would call me if there is any need. I find it ridiculous - why spread panic over social media then?

Vishal Verma said…
I donated once.. few days later.. I suffered fever,cold etc.. don't know why... later came to know that some rackets goto colleges in karnataka, ask for blood donation and exchanges those with cash from hospital...
Shalini, this year has had quite a few medical posts but yes, even in them there was less medical and more personal views. Here, I'm trying to change that a bit by focusing on the medical aspects a little more. :)
Glad you liked it Bushra...
I'm happy to see more and more companies getting involved in it and encouraging blood donations from their workers..
Can't really say. Sometimes they may have made the basic minimum requirements but may have been adviced by the doctors to have more ready in case of severe bleeding during the operation.
thats really sad. Its disheartening to see that people will look to earn a profit out of anything available.