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Mar 12, 2009

Healthy Living explores the importance of giving blood

Story PicturePeople often wonder what is the ultimate expression of love, and before you go soul searching for a complex response, the answer is before you. It is simple and the act is literally priceless. Tonight Healthy Living explores the importance of donating blood.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Doctors spend years educating themselves learning how to save lives. Imagine spending less than an hour and being able to do the same. Blood donation is a simple process that can have a larger than life impact on those who are in need. Unfortunately, it is in the midst of an emergency that we realize the immediate need for blood and many times… a lot of it. President of the Belize Volunteer Blood Donor Association, Dr. Ramon Figueroa puts it in the Belizean context.

Dr. Ramon Figueroa, President, Belize Volunteer Blood Donor Assn.
“If we look at one of the big problems in Belize, road traffic accidents violent injuries. Those are emergency situations that come to the hospital and most of them are bleeding and in need of immediate treatment is to get blood. It’s important that we have a proper blood bank with enough blood in there to deal with the primary problems that afflict our population: road traffic accidents and violence in Belize.”

The American Red Cross estimates that an accident victim can require anywhere from four to one hundred units of blood. This underscores the importance of having a reserve of donated blood available at our blood bank. In 2005, there was a total of nine percent voluntary blood available at the blood bank. While those numbers have increased the supervisor of the Belize National Transfusion Services emphasizes the need for more voluntary donors.

Joy Robateau, Supervisor, Belize National Transfusion Services
“You never know when it’s your turn that you’re going to need the blood. It cannot be manufactured so you have to have donors. In the past it has been very low but we have seen a remarkable increase last year and we are impressed with it.”

Marleni Cuellar
“Why do you think that the interest has peaked?”

Joy Robateau
“Knowledge, knowing the importance of blood and the convenience of not having to stress when your loved one is in the emergency room.”

Dr. Ramon Figueroa, President, Belize Volunteer Blood Donor Assn.
“Here we have about, in 2007, about fourteen percent of the blood collected in voluntary and the eighty-six-eighty-seven was replacement. The ideal situation would be that any blood banking system would be the blood comes from voluntary donations. So the basic objective is to have a hundred percent non-paid voluntary blood donations.”

So how does one become eligible to be a voluntary blood donor offering someone a gift of life? The process is simple.

Dr Ramon Figueroa
“First of all you have to be between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five years; so once you’re between that age group. That’s why you go through a screening process and you go through a pen prick where they find out if you’re not anemic if you’re level of blood is up to standard that won’t put you at risk. Those are some strict guidelines. Then you do a questionnaire which they ask you about particular habits.”

Once you’ve passed the preliminary screening, then comes the extraction of the blood. And for those getting queasy at the thought of the needle, Karen Diaz, who has been donating blood for the past twenty-five years assures us that it is not as bad as it seems.

Karen Diaz, Volunteer Blood Donor
“Its not nearly as painful as people think. Its two little pricks with a needle one to test the blood when you come in to see if you have high enough levels and a second with a slightly larger needle but its still nothing uncomfortable as you can see I’m sitting here chatting with you while my blood is coming out. The people in this blood bank are always so professional so courteous that I think we should trust that they all know what they’re doing, that they have been properly trained, that the blood is being stored, being screened and that makes you a lot happier to know that what you’re doing is gonna be safe for those that receive it.”

Joy Robateau
“After the blood has been collected we would screen it for—all hundred percent of our bags are screened for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Chagas, Malaria and Syphillis.”

This screening process is done to ensure that the blood can be used for transfusion. The blood bank practices extra special measures to ensure safety and confidentiality throughout the entire procedure so that donor and receiver can feel secure. Mavis Guzman understands this feeling, all too well. Her son Alan Guzman who is diagnosed with portal hypertension is regularly in need of blood transfusion.

Mavis Guzman, Son Needs Blood Donors
“My son is twenty two years old and he has been suffering from he’s eight years old. He bleed the whole of the inside and when he comes he have to be transfused most of the times.”

And with her son being hospitalized on an average of three to four times a year and each visit requiring a blood transfusion, Mavis regularly faces the difficulties of seeking out blood donors.

Mavis Guzman
“Right now he’s in the hospital and he needs at least seven pints of blood and it’s hard right now I’m trying to get in people but some of them I believe fraid fi come in and be tested before they find out they’re sick or something. I think that’s the problem. But it’s really hard.”

With scenarios like Mavis and her son and countless others, The Belize Volunteer Blood Donor Association and the Belize National Transfusion Services have a hefty task of not only recruiting donors but also improving the banking system.

Dr. Ramon Figueroa
““At a time of crisis in the hospital, it could be you, it could be your sister, it could be you brother or mother. You never know when something is going to happen. That’s why we need to have good blood banking system that has capacity to store sufficient blood, process sufficient blood and cater to the growing needs of the population.”

Joy Robateau
“We have a very limited staff and our little blood bank has well out grown Belize needs by this time so we would really need a bigger blood bank.”

So if you are an eligible donor, visit the blood blank and make your contribution. It costs you nothing but is invaluable to those who receive it.

Karen Diaz
“It’s something that I have enough of to share and I think it’s something that needs to be promoted worldwide.”

Mavis Guzman
“Ih help me wid my son because when he get the blood he could live a little bit longer.”

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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