Published: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 10:45

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KMNA – Freetown (July 26). On the occasion of World Blood Donor Day commemorated on June 14, KMN talked to Saio Y. Koroma, Medical Laboratory Officer at the National Blood Bank at Connaught Hospital in Freetown.

We started by asking Mr Koroma to give us an overview of the state of the blood bank.

Koroma: The government and its partners have tried hard to set the stage for people to donate blood from time to time, but it’s unfortunate that the public is not responding positively.

One thing we need to know is that up until now we have not been able to get a substitute for blood, despite the intervention of scientists… In medical delivery, they have been able to make a lot of commodities with which lives of patients are saved. For example, we have tablets, capsules and injections at our disposal to alleviate pain.

But when someone is short of blood, they have not been able to produce something to sell. And we are not able to get people to come and donate.

KMN: When you say the public is not responding, how do you mean?

Koroma: It is not that people are not coming at all. We have three types of blood donations.

Firstly, there are the family or friend replacement donors. This category donates when family members or friends are sick and in need of blood.

Secondly, there are the commercial donors. They only donate in exchange for money.

Thirdly, there is the voluntary blood donor group. They come from time to time and voluntarily donate for safe keeping. These are the people who WHO [World Health Organisation] says to encourage. Their blood is not only available for family and friend, but for anyone in emergency. We use such to save lives.

What’s the current quantity of blood in the bank?

Well, we can’t possibly estimate it nationally, because as we collect blood we use it. But I can say that we do not have enough blood in the bank because of apathy by the public to donate voluntarily.

The only frequent donors are people whose family members need blood. Even among these people, it is always difficult to convince many.

The blood donation criteria include:

1. Age: 17 and not more than 60
2. We check the amount of your blood to ensure you have enough for yourself. The measurement we use is in grams per deciliter. For men, they must have 12.5 grams per deciliter of blood within their system. For women, they must have 11.5 gram per deciliter.
3. You must also weigh at least 50 kilograms.
4. You should have no tattoo. No septic wounds, and should not have undergone a major operation within the last three month. Asthma patients are also exempted.
5. Pregnant women and suckling mothers, especially within the first six months, are also exempted. There are many other criteria involved.

What should people eat to be able to donate blood?

Blood is a natural gift. We should eat well balanced diets, including carbohydrates, fat and oil, minerals and all the rest; just the normal staple foods. You should also drink enough water and have adequate rest. People should also know that every day we make new blood and every day we lose old blood, because they are living cells. If the bone marrow produces blood cells today, it lives for a maximum of 120 days within the body and die out. Others are manufactured. So there is no need to fear. We produce blood just as we lose them.

(Interview conducted by Yangie Debora-Sesay and transcribed and edited from Krio to English by Kemo Cham)