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Blood For Life Indonesia: Give Blood to Give Life

BY :RATRI M. SINIWI

AUGUST 24, 2016

Jakarta. With a population of 250 million people, the need for blood supply in Indonesia at an all time high. In light of World Humanitarian Day last Friday (19/08), the Jakarta Globe had the opportunity to interview the chairwoman of Blood For Life Indonesia, Yudhinia Venkanteswari, who is better known as Ririe, to talk about the importance of blood donation.

Blood For Life Indonesia was founded in 2009 by Valencia Mieke Randa, to provide a platform to connect people who need blood with those who are willing to donate blood, as well as to provide information about blood donation generally. What started out as a mailing list of 44 members has grown into a community with as many as 100,000 followers on Twitter.

Q: What’s the difference between the Indonesian Red Cross Society and Blood For Life?

The Indonesian Red Cross Society, or PMI, is the national blood service agency, which ensures that there is an adequate and safe supply of blood for all patients who require transfusions. Blood For Life supports the cause by two main activities: first, to connect patients that require transfusions with voluntary unpaid blood donors through social media. Second, to educate the community on the need for voluntary unpaid blood donors. This is done through our fundraising activities and events, where we also sell merchandise, especially for those who aren’t able to donate blood.

How does Blood For Life work? Are blood donators required to visit a hospital?

Blood shortages at PMI is very common, where patient’s relatives are requested by the hospital staff to donate blood. However, it is compulsory for every patient who requires a transfusion to have a number of replacement donors for emergency admissions, or before planned surgeries. This is where we come in, through a virtual emergency room run and administered 24/7 on Twitter and Facebook through Blood4LifeID and a hotline.

How it works is that the patient’s relatives contact Blood For Life through social media accounts or a hotline, then the administrator will take down the blood requirements of the patient and post them up via social media. Thanks to our volunteers and partners, we have better coverage and this is how we find matches. Our administrators will then contact the volunteers who turn out to be a match through the database or Twitter and Facebook and direct them to a specific blood drive or hospital. We also actively monitor the status of the situation.

Are blood donators able to donate anonymously?

Since important medical history details are recorded, technically, it’s not anonymous.

Are blood donators compensated?

In Indonesia, blood donors donate their blood without being compensated. Additionally, according to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, blood donations should be voluntary.

Can anyone donate blood?

Yes, but they are selected after an interview and physical examination has been conducted. This includes an examination of their age, hemoglobin levels, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight as well as taking note of the last time a donor has given blood. This is to protect recipients, donors and minimize any risks when donating blood.

Donors must be between the ages of 17-65 and weigh at least 45 kilograms. A blood donor can only donate blood after a span of three months.

What blood type is the rarest in Indonesia?

Among the four base ABO blood types discovered by Karl Landsteiner, the father of blood group identification, AB minus is found to be the rarest, not only in Indonesia but also in the world.

Which patients need blood donations most?

First of all, there are two types of blood donations, whole blood and aphaeresis donations. Aphaeresis is the process used to collect blood platelets from the donor’s blood and it takes a little longer to collect, as the donor’s red blood cells will be returned during the donation.

Whole blood donation is when it’s just straight up blood. After, it is then usually separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets. The donations can be used for patients with cancer, blood diseases, hemophilia, anemia, childbirth complications, operations and a lot more.

Plasma is a pale, yellow colored liquid where red and white blood cells float in with platelets and plasma donations are used for immune system conditions, pregnancy, bleeding and muscle and nerve conditions, as it carries special nutrients. Whereas platelets are tiny blood plates which help reduce bleeding. They’re commonly needed by people with cancer, leukemia, surgery and liver disease.

Blood donations using an aphaeresis machine gives a higher volume of concentrated plasma or platelets for each donation. One bag of platelets from aphaeresis is equivalent to six-10 bags of platelets from regular blood donations.

What is the biggest challenge for PMI and Blood For Life?

Based on WHO’s standards, the minimum stock of blood a country should have is around 5.1 million blood bags, or enough to provide for 2 percent of the population. But according to the Ministry of Health, Indonesia’s blood bank stock is only at 4.6 million bags. Therefore, Indonesia has a shortage of 500 thousand blood bags. People are still not donating blood because some are afraid of the needle, while others just don’t realize the importance of blood donations. What if you or your loved ones need blood? Somebody needs to ensure that PMI has enough stock. The need for blood is constant, so is the need for donations.

Why should people donate blood? What is the importance of doing so?

People do not need a special reason to donate blood, they just need a reason of their own. There is a sense of accomplishment after donating blood, after knowing that they have just helped save some lives. Our founder Valencia, who is better known as Kak Silly, always reminds the team and the volunteers that we should feel good by doing good things. On top of that, by donating blood, it’s an automatic regular health checkup. Every successful donation is memorable to us.

How many blood donation requests has Blood For Life been able to fulfill?

We can say that on average, we have 200 requests for blood per month, and every transaction is a successful one. We never turn down a request. We usually get a lot more requests during the holiday season and fasting month, as donors are mostly fasting or are away when contacted. This year, January recorded the highest number of social media postings with 291 requests, while in June, there were 260.

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