Blood donation

Dubai needs more regular blood donors to meet current demands. We speak to the head of Dubai’s Blood Donation Centre

The Knowledge

Donating blood is a noble thing to do, isn’t it? Voluntarily exposing your flesh to the sharp end of a needle so that others might benefit – ahh, that’s humankind, that’s what we do for each other. Or at least we would, if we could find time. A recent survey by Real Opinions, supported by Zabeel Investments, Dubai International Financial Centre and Arab Media Group, found a significant gap between actual and intentional donors. The survey found that reasons given for not donating blood included ‘time spent waiting’ and ‘being too busy’.

This is unfortunate, considering Dubai needs to increase its register of regular blood donors. Why? Donated blood has a ‘shelf-life’, so it is difficult to stockpile. An individual can only donate once every three months, but if more people begin to donate on a regular basis, this increases the chances of maintaining a free-flowing supply. That supply is then used to help people suffering from all manner of blood-related diseases, not to mention those who are unfortunate enough to be victims of unexpected traumas, including road traffic accidents. This is why the Dubai Health Authority’s Blood Donation Centre at Al Wasl hospital has launched a new campaign, ‘Your Blood Is Mine: Donate Voluntarily’.

Dr Laila Mohammed Al Shaer, head of the Blood Donation Centre and a consultant in molecular haematology, says the campaign is important because of the ever-increasing demand for donated blood in Dubai. ‘We have many, many health facilities in Dubai,’ she explains. ‘Plus we have many specialised centres, some of which are among the biggest in the Middle East, so we are providing for a lot of patients.’ There are also high rates of thalassaemia here, a blood disease that is particularly prevalent in the Middle East. Dr Al Shaer adds that a new transplant centre for Dubai is in the works, which would increase demand further.

The donation centre’s campaign takes two routes. One is to run workshops in schools and universities so that, as Dr Al Shaer says, the ‘new generation’ can be educated to donate. The second is to visit employees in all sectors and encourage them to become regular donors. The latter raises an interesting issue. Most of the 680 people polled in Real Opinions’ survey said they had donated blood through an office or company-based initiative. This fits in with the reasons given for not donating: a lack of time and concern about how long it takes to ‘reach, donate and return’.

Dr Al Shaer says the centre’s employees do take mobile equipment into workplaces. ‘Eighty per cent of our collection is outside of the centre,’ she points out. However, the centre organises all company visits a month in advance, because an appropriate space in the workplace must be found for carrying out the procedures.

A mobile donation centre may help because it can visit multiple offices in one day – 92 per cent said they’d use one if it was available. ‘The plan is to have a vehicle – hopefully soon,’ says Dr Al Shaer. But for now, Dubai’s donated blood supply must rely on in-office visits and donors who drop into the centre.

This isn’t to say that Dubai is in dire straits. Dr Al Shaer says that in-office visits attract around 150 donors a day, which is on target (this is set at 150-200). And she has high hopes for the campaign’s success. But there can never be too many or even enough blood donors. Particularly in Dubai, there are ‘low seasons’ for receiving donations, such as Ramadan when people are fasting and fear they will be too weak to donate, and summer when many residents flee the stifling weather. There is also great demand for rare blood types, so the more people who donate regularly, the better.

Dr Al Shaer seems positive this will happen in time. ‘Most people feel they have a role in society to donate, they are committed to society and they feel they are giving a gift,’ she says. ‘Some people fear it will be painful, but once they’ve done it they say “I will do that again”, because they have faced the fear of the needle.’

So there you have it. If you can make some time to head down to the centre – which, let’s face it, is taking a few moments out of your day to potentially save a life – you can prove you’re not a wuss and feel noble all at once. What are you waiting for?
Contact the Blood Donation Centre, at Al Wasl Hospital, on 04 219 3221

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