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Jun 6, 2019

Healthy Living: Donate Blood

You’ve seen countless calls in this very same newscast. You’ve seen a multitude of messages online. It’s a recurrent request that not enough people oblige. It’s a call for blood. Why does it seem like Belizeans are always desperate for donors? We get some answers in tonight’s Healthy Living.


Marleni Cuellar

It’s commonly called giving the gift of life: donating your own blood for the purpose of saving the life of others. Unfortunately, blood donors are in high demand in Belize and there is a consistent challenge where the type of blood donors needed are not responding sufficiently.


There are two types of donors: voluntary and replacement donors. The gold standard in developed countries is to have a blood stock made up of a hundred percent voluntary blood donation. In Belize, only fourteen percent of the blood donated is done so voluntarily. Doctor Edwin Bolastig is the Health Systems and Services Advisor for PAHO Belize and explains how we compare to other health systems globally.


Dr. Edwin Bolastig, Health Systems & Services Advisor, PAHO Belize

“Only about over a quart of the world’s countries actually have voluntary blood donation systems. Nicaragua actually which has shifted already to a voluntary blood donation system. Why do we say it’s important to shift to (voluntary) blood donations? There are several reasons. One is assuring a safe blood supply.”


Edwin Bolastig

This is because voluntary donors are usually healthier. They choose to donate blood without being requested. A replacement donor donates when asked by someone to donate for their loved one who needs to access to blood for non-emergency medical procedures or to replace blood they have already received during an emergency.


Dr. Edwin Bolastig

“Replacement your under pressure so you try to get anyone, relatives friends and sometimes you even pay for people you’d not even know their history or they’re medical background or whatever. And you know but maybe they have risks.”


Marleni Cuellar

Marleni Cuellar

“When patients are brought into emergency rooms like this one here at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, families and doctors don’t have time to seek out blood donors for the blood that will be needed for treatment. A gin shot victim for example may use as many as ten units of blood in just the few hours of treatment. The underscores the need for a reliable source of blood for the country. We have to be real. Is it achievable? WHO is actually projecting that you only need one percent of your population. To be regular voluntary blood donors to achieve a good supply.”


One percent which equates to about sixteen voluntary donations each day. It seems like an achievable target, yet over the years the country has remained reliant on replacement blood. Surely, you’ve seen families pleading on the news and on social media regularly. Having to seek out donors can burden families with additional emotional stress. It also carries another burden. Director of Laboratory Service for the Ministry of Health, Doctor Geraldine Morazan explains.


Geraldine Morazan

Dr. Geraldine Morazan, Director of Laboratory Service for the Ministry of Health

“In emergency situations, trauma patient car accident or burn patient they receive their blood as they go into emergency room and they need blood they will receive the blood. The families visiting in the emergency rooms and they have loved ones who have been in car accidents and they are being in the need of the blood transfusion or the doctor forces that they patients is going to need blood transfusion they right away tell the family we need you to go and donate. So if we give ten units of blood to patient and they send ten people to donate but that out of the ten that they send only five we can use because only five passed the interview or only five pass the screening tests. So then it creates a deletion or a deficit in the blood bank.”


Both Doctors Morazan and Bolastig expressed concern over the rising trend that people are requesting money to be replacement donors.


Dr. Edwin Bolastig

“First of all most of the people who sell their blood are in a particular situation. Yea? Which may be put them at a certain risk. The next thing is the economic side of it which means that It contravenes the whole notion of health as a human right and access to blood and as a human right because it is based on your ability to pay.”


Dr. Geraldine Morazan

“If people are gaining or making a profit out of selling the blood they will come to the blood bank they will us they’re selling their blood and because they are profiting they’re going to lie about it in the questionnaire. Two things could happen we test team and they’re okay or we test them and they’re not okay then they would use the blood bag, the time of the phlebotomist, the time of the interview and all that goes to waste.”


And so the Ministry of Health, PAHO Belize, The Belize Red Cross and other agencies are teaming up to recruit more voluntary donors across the country.


Dr. Edwin Bolastig

“We’re celebrating World Blood Donor Day.  There is going to be a blood donation on June fourteenth, which is Friday; that’s next week at the Central Blood Bank. So everyone is invited to come us vine if you if you not going to donate just come out and find out how to donate in the future.”


Dr. Geraldine Morazan

“The first time I became a donor was in high school when I was approached by the Red Cross. It’s all because to the person to be educated and understand the impact that they could do. You know you are doing your part. You’re saving a person you’re helping not only trauma patients but also helping babies who are born with some disease or infectious disease that they need to do a blood transfusion. You’re helping cancer patients. So if you become a donor you become a hero.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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