By: Stephen ADDAI-BAAH
Blood transfusion, the world over, is an indispensable component of healthcare.
It contributes to saving lives every year in both routine and emergency situations.
Blood transfusion dramatically improves the life expectancy and quality of life of patients with a variety of acute and chronic conditions.
Patients who require transfusion as part of their clinical management have the right to expect that sufficient blood will be available to meet their needs and to receive the safest blood possible.
Blood and blood components are essential drugs included on the essential medicine list of the World Health Organisation.
As a therapeutic substance of human origin which can be obtained only from human blood donors, blood and blood components are a precious national resource that will remain limited by nature.
This makes blood transfusion a unique technology that blends science with altruism.
The selection of blood donors, blood collection, testing, processing and use are purely technical and require the use of good manufacturing practice (GMP) and quality assurance in every aspect of these activities.
All the aforementioned processes are performed according to standard operating procedures by trained qualified staff of the Blood Service. However, the availability of this scarce human resource (raw material) depends entirely on the extraordinary generosity of blood donors who donates this most precious of gifts – the gift of life.
Voluntary blood donors, particularly regular donors are recognized the world over as the safest of donors because they are motivated by altruism and the desire to help others and by a sense of moral duty or social responsibility. They have no reason to withhold information about their lifestyles or medical condition that may make them unsuitable to donate blood.
They are not placed under pressure by hospital staff, family members or the community to donate blood and they entrust their blood donations to be used as needed rather than for specific patients.
The only reward they receive is personal satisfaction, self-esteem and pride.
The current strategy of the World Health Organization (WHO) towards self-sufficiency in safe blood and blood products is based on 100% voluntary non-remunerated blood donations.
This strategy has evolved out of successive resolutions adopted by the supreme decision making bodies of WHO to all its member states.
Countries all over the world are, therefore, making strenuous effort by embarking on various drives to reach this goal and Ghana is no exception.
Currently, Ghana has achieved only 37% voluntary donations, a figure which is far below the WHO projected 100% voluntary non-remunerated blood donation target even though the National Blood Service is working hard to meet the goal of countries in the sub region.
The National Blood Service, Ghana has reiterated in all its communications to the public that indeed, blood needed for transfusion cannot be manufactured artificially.
It must, therefore, be donated freely by somebody, which is you and I, and must be done out of love for life.
More often than not, whenever an appeal is made to the public for voluntary blood donor support, the question that is often asked is about who benefits from the blood they freely donate.
It is indeed a legitimate question which all must be interested in finding out the answer.
The truth, however, is that all voluntary blood that is collected is given to patients whose condition could only be managed by blood therapy and nothing else, and this process is referred to as the transfusion process.
The Southern Area Blood Centre, which is responsible for the blood transfusion needs within the Greater Accra, Volta, Central and parts of Eastern and Western regions, needs over 200 units of blood every day, and in most cases, the National Blood Service is unable to meet this demand due to several factors. The first and most important of which is the difficulty in getting voluntary donors and sustaining them.
The National Blood Service, Ghana would want to reiterate that because blood is a drug which is administered to patients, we do not have to compromise quality assurance and would want the general public to be guarded by this fact.
For the blood to have its expected results, the blood service team ensures that the entire blood safety value chain, from identification of potential donors, blood collection, testing, processing, storage, distribution, issuing of compatible blood for transfusion and usage is done in a validated and quality assured manner.
It is important to note that every unit of blood and blood components has a blood donation number, blood group and test results that allows the origin of the product to be traced from the patient to the donor
This alone should make every donor and recipient of donated blood feel confident, secured and protected, knowing for sure that the National Blood Service is up to the task by ensuring safe, adequate and efficacious blood and blood products and also to ensuring its timely, accessible and affordable distribution to all hospitals in the country.
Let us all be reminded that blood is a very important medicine required for the survival of some, especially our pregnant wives, mothers, children, close relatives who may be involved in an accident today or in future.
Donate a unit of blood today and save millions of lives tomorrow. The blood you donate today may save your own life someday.
Happy World Blood Donor Day to all voluntary blood donors. Ayekoo!
The writer is the Public Relations Officer, National Blood Service.