Blood Bank Woes

If you have never donated blood, or if you have never required blood for a relative or kin of yours, the chances are you can’t anticipate what I am writing about.

Today after hunting several blood banks for platelets for O+ blood group for a relative of mine, I think I understand now how troublesome the dealing with blood banks can be.

A relative of mine who was suffering from Dengue, had his platelet count too low (10, 000), due to which it was required to transfuse him with platelets from at least 2 jumbo packs (probably the name jumbo because it is large). My assumption was that one can donate blood of any group and in return one can receive blood/ serum / plasma / platelets etc. for the required blood group, subject to availability. But it turned out that it is not the case with platelets. I am still not sure of the reason for this but my guess is that since the life of platelets is only 72 hours, storage of platelets is not possible for long durations.

Thus I had to somehow get people with O+ blood group which is not as common as B+ blood group. In addition to that they should have platelet count of more than 200, 000 and additionally they shouldn’t be suffering from any ailments like AIDS, hepatitis, any blood related ailments etc. All this further reduce the probability of finding a valid donor. The end result is people end up buying blood from people who sell blood for money, repercussions of which can be really devastating for the patient, in case the donor is suffering from an ailment which is not diagnosed during screening of the donor. In my case, luckily, I found several friends who had O+ blood group and the first two to be screened turned out to be healthy and valid donors.

I found the process of platelet extraction rather interesting. There was a special machine for platelet separation and from one hand’s vein, the blood was being extracted which went to the machine which separated the platelets and rest of the fluid (blood – platelets) was being pumped back into the body through the other hand. Someone told me that this machine is not very common and in western UP it is available only in Meerut. Apparently the cost of the machine is not too much, around 25 Lac INR, but the rarity of this machine is due to some licensing / permit issues with it. The cost of this process is whopping 11, 000 INR excluding the screening tests which is around 1K INR. Thus for a total of two jumbo packs we ended up paying around 23K. I heard that sometimes, hospital staff tend to ask for more I wondered what happens to people who are living in places where such medical facilities are not available and even if they manage to bring the patient to places where it is available, how many of them have money to pay for the treatment. Further even if both these conditions are met, how many of them get valid donors in time. And if they meet all these conditions, how many of them are not fleeced by hospitals.

Overall this episode taught me that in this country, either don’t fall ill, or if you do, make sure

1. You stay close to where good medical facilities are available

2. You have health insurance and / or good bank balance

3. You have good connections with people and someone in your close family is a doctor.

Also it is a good idea to donate blood regularly (at least once in a year, say on your birthday) as there are lots of people who require blood but there are not enough donors.

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