Back in 2012, AfriKids established a blood bank at the AfriKids Medical Centre. Two years later this service is literally saving and transforming lives. In order to do this it relies on local and visiting blood donors. Our UK fundraiser Ama Atteen recently visited the centre and gave blood. Here she tells why she decided to donate and what it will mean to the patients at the centre.
I’ve been working at AfriKids (UK) for four years and have had the pleasure of seeing the AfriKids Medical Centre go from strength to strength. Back in June I went out to Ghana for my fourth trip. This time I decided to do something I’ve never done before, in the UK or in Ghana – I decided to give blood.
The reason I’ve never given before is really quite pathetic. Like many people, I don’t like needles. However after spending time with Bismark, the manager of the laboratory at the AfriKids Medical Centre, I was totally struck by the challenges they face in getting blood donors. While the team in Ghana have done really well, managing to increase the number of donors in 2013 following a radio advertisement (something they now do regularly), they predominantly rely on donations from patients’ relatives and AfriKids Ghana’s staff.
On average the AfriKids Medical Centre receives nine donations of blood per month. Most of the recipients tend to be children because they are more susceptible to tropical diseases like malaria, deteriorate faster and are therefore more likely to need a blood transfusion than adults. One of the more common reasons a patient will need a blood transfusion is malaria that has led to further life threatening complications, like anaemia. Malaria remains the most commonly treated condition at the AfriKids Medical Centre.
It was really simple to make the donation. They took a sample to screen my blood, I came back an hour later after visiting other departments in the centre and was told I could donate. Bismark and Ramatu, his colleague, were really excited because I have one of the rarer blood groups – O negative. This apparently means I am a universal donor and my blood can be given to almost anyone regardless of their blood group. However people that are O negative can only receive the exact same match for blood transfusions – essentially should I need blood I can only be given O Negative. This blood group is so rare, so the team at the Medical Centre have a list of potential O Negative donors in the area that they can call on for instances where O Negative patients require a transfusion.
The actual process of making the donation took about 20 minutes, and then I had to rest for a while after. Every donor is given a sweet malt drink straight after which helps with the process of boosting bloods cells and energy levels. I was also given a chocolate drink and a can of carnation milk for the following morning.
I gave 200mls of blood, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough to provide life-saving treatment for two infants under the age of two. In fact, while I was there they told me about a baby boy who was critically sick with malaria and as a result had developed anaemia so would potentially need blood. I don’t know whether he required a blood transfusion in the end and if so whether he received my donation. What I do know is that someone will receive my blood who needs it and that’s a good feeling.