I can vividly recollect this day few years ago. I was posted to the blood bank and as early as 8:15 in the morning, a female MBBS student came to the blood bank. Being the only one around, she came to me and asked a question: ‘who will collect a pant from me?’
I couldn’t believe my ears but to guard against being caught fantasizing, I responded with equally mesmerizing comments. ‘Why not two?’ I asked. She said she couldn’t afford to give another pant. I rolled my eyes and asked her ‘what is your pant size?’ Her response was a slap followed by a long gaze.
When a senior colleague heard of the scene, she and other staffs of the laboratory burst into ecstatic laughter before clarifying that the lady came to donate blood, and not in search of who to give her lingerie. And the word is ‘pint’ and not ‘pant’. I felt like an olodo! But today, few years after the incidence, I’ve realized that I’m not the only without a full understanding of blood donation.
Etymologically, blood donation connotes a process in which blood is given out to be used by someone in need of transfusion. As extensively shown by associated arguments by Jehovah Witnesses like Akande Adeniyi and Blood Drive International’s Tobi Lala, coupled with dangers and religious dimensions, pants seem to be safer than pints of blood.
In most religions, faiths and beliefs, blood is sacred. A verse of the Bible says ‘when I see the blood, I’ll pass over you’; another says ‘they overcame by the blood of the lamb’. Ritualists including some politicians had reportedly shed blood in the pursuit of personal goals. Also, blood and other fluid exchange seem to be one of the strong unions between parents and children. The same blood had shattered many lives via the transmission of blood borne infections. Hence blood is not just a body fluid, it’s a mystery yet unresolved! It holds the key to understanding human beings.
A serious government could be known by its Safe Blood programmes, a good hospital could be assessed by the quality of its blood bank. Also, laboratory scientists working in the laboratory could be assessed based on the mortality records of their cross matching. And the various ministries of health’s programmes are better monitored using regulation of blood banking services as good index. Citizens are not left out.
While we all criticize governments at all levels, similar sad tales could be told of one of the few responsibilities of Nigerian citizens.
Most blood transfused in our various clinics are gotten from paid donors and families of patients in need of blood. What does this say of us as citizens of this nation? We love money, and we are collectively selfish!
Why should donors be asking for money in exchange for pints of blood? Is it as a result of peculiar unemployment or national corruption? Like politicians who embezzle or diversify public funds they didn’t generate, paid blood donors are asking for money in exchange for something that is priceless and that they didn’t help create apart from eating good food.
In the same vein, it’s saddening that those who fail to donate voluntarily begs to be bled when they have a loved one on admission. This is also selfish and on the same pedestal with the selfish acts of our lawmakers who want to get 90 million Naira per quarter for just seating, while laborers sweating under the sun earns less than 90 Naira per hour.
Our status as a nation could also be evaluated by the status of our blood donation system.
In Nigeria, blood donation is facing several trivial inundating challenges. In the first instance, the federal government’s role is currently limited to the creation and operation of National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) centers and funding of the blood bank units of our various federal medical centers and teaching hospitals. While these may seem sufficient enough, current blood transfusion challenges demand more.
Nigeria is now in dire need of a Blood Transfusion Reactions Research Center. Hemovigilance is another issue that Nigeria should be interested in considering the numerous unreported major and minor blood transfusion reactions. Nigeria currently lacks a coherent reporting system of wrong cross matches and as far as bad blood banking service practice is concerned, Nigeria is the best place to be.
At the grass roots, ordinary citizens still don’t see voluntary blood donation as a lifestyle that should be imbibed and encouraged in the best interest of all, especially the sick. The various state ministries of health are only interested in HIV/AIDS publicity without even setting a day aside, apart from June 14th, to embark on blood drive in markets, offices, and residents where citizens could be informed on why blood donation is necessary. At the local governments, blood donation programme is literally non existent.
There is need for us to be serious as a nation, state, government, and individual. We need to take our blood transfusion programme serious and set new realistic goals to ensure that every pint of blood in our 4oC blood bank refrigerators is gotten from free blood donors. We can’t continually depend on paid donors to run our health system. It’s quite shameful.
The shameful status of our national, state, and local blood transfusion programmes are attestations to the precarious situation of our nation. However, unlike poverty, insecurity and restricted access to government resources which are peculiar features of the downtrodden members of the public, anyone could be in dire need of a transfusion. hence if necessary steps are not taken by government officials to right these wrongs, then, sooner or later, they would have shot themselves in the foot. And remedy would be comedy.