Blood Heroes in Pandemic: Donors carry on altruistic work | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:30 AM, August 08, 2020

Blood Heroes in Pandemic: Donors carry on altruistic work

Facebook groups proved big help

One night in May, around 11:00pm, Milon Hossain got a call from a Facebook-based blood donation group.

He was asked to donate his O positive blood for a woman, who fell unconscious from bleeding at Pabna Sadar Hospital.

Milon immediately started for the hospital, 35 kilometres away from his village in Pabna, on his motorbike.

"After the donation, when I returned home, it was around 1:00am," he recounted.

The 30-year-old motor mechanic and his brother had taken an oath two years ago to donate blood for saving the lives of critical patients.

They took the vow when Roktodaner Opekkhay Banglades, the same group that called Milon in May, helped save his sister-in-law's life with 10 bags of blood in 2018.

"Although many fear to donate blood nowadays, I believe if we keep conscious, maintain hygiene and proper distance, there is nothing to be worried about," said Milon.

Like him, hundreds of volunteers of social media-based blood donation groups have continued their altruistic work during this pandemic, risking coronavirus infection.

Asif Ahmed, a diploma engineering student of Brahmaputra Polytechnic Institute of Mymensingh, is another daring volunteer of Roktodaner Opekkhay Bangladesh.

He has been managing blood donors for the group since 2017.

But he was discouraged from donating blood because of his physical disability of congenital hand deformity and weakness in both legs.

Despite that, the 20-year-old donated blood three times so far.

"When I started, I proved that my disability is not an inability to donate blood," he proudly asserted.

In May, Asif donated B positive blood for a four-year-old thalassemia patient in Mymensingh Medical College.

Sajal Ahmed, a regular donor of the Facebook group Amra Roktosandhani, said his family is scared about his safety regarding Covid-19 infection.

Still, the 30-year-old donates blood and has done so more than 25 times.

Two months ago, he was able to save the life of a woman whose baby died inside her womb.

"Even though my mother refused to let me go, I along with a friend started for Mirpur-12 from Khilgaon and donated blood at midnight," he said.


At the beginning of the shutdown, donors were facing difficulties in donating blood due to lack of transportation and restrictions of movement, said Md Nazrul Islam on July 25.

He is a call centre agent of Roktodaner Opekkhay Bangladesh, the Facebook wing of the organisation, which started in 2013.

"The situation is getting normal now. In July, the group was able to manage 1,582 donors for hospitalised patients," he said.

Nazrul himself donated blood and platelets over 80 times in his lifetime.

Meanwhile, Amra Roktosandhani managed 3,692 donors from March to July 20, with a record of getting 62 donors in a single day in July.

Since its inception in 2017, the platform has managed more than 22,000 blood donors.

However, in recent times, they have been receiving more requests for plasma donors.

The group also provides free rides to the donors now, if the patient's family members cannot make transportation arrangements. 

"We have our own riders who showed interest in providing free rides to the blood donors in this crisis. If they are unavailable, we provide the fare to donors," said Faisal Bhuiyan, an admin of the group.

"We meet the overall expenses on our own as the president of our organisation takes care of them. Besides, we get a significant amount of financial support from some of our senior brothers who live abroad," Faisal told this correspondent on Tuesday.

These platforms also suggest donors maintain personal safety through hygiene practices and avoiding unnecessary contact with anyone -- the person accompanying the donors, or the patient's family members.


Even a few years ago, people had to depend on private blood banks to manage blood in an emergency.

Most of these banks relied on individuals who sold blood to earn money and in many cases were drug addicts.  

According to organisations in this sector, over time massive campaigns brought about a positive attitude towards blood donation increasing the number of voluntary donors.

Dr Minhazul Islam Hridoy, general secretary of Sandhani, told The Daily Star on July 27 that Bangladesh has a demand for 12 lakh to 13 lakh of bags of blood annually.

Voluntary donors, not related to the patients, provide 25 percent of this demand and the rest come from patients' relatives and friends, voluntarily, he said.

A source in Bangladesh Red Crescent Society gave a similar estimate.

Both organisations have been working in the field of voluntary blood donation for decades.

However, patients and their families say digital platforms like Facebook groups have made it easier to manage ready donors in minutes through public posts.


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