Independence Day: Mumbai opens up its veins for a cause

Updated: 17 August, 2020 07:15 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Close to 500 donors turned up for the special 12-hour blood donation drive at Shivaji Park on Independence Day, despite pandemic fears

The blood donation camp was organised in place of the annual Mumbai Ultrathon on August 15. Pic/ Ashish Raje
The blood donation camp was organised in place of the annual Mumbai Ultrathon on August 15. Pic/ Ashish Raje

It was a message in bottles, as hundreds of people arrived at Shivaji Park to participate in the 12-hour blood donation camp on Independence Day. The organisers said it was "heartening" to see so many people coming forward despite the fears surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The blood donation camp was organised in place of the annual Mumbai Ultrathon (a 12 hours running event) in association with Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), at Swatantra Veer Savarkar Smarak, Shivaji Park, on Saturday.

The event lived up to its moniker 'Operation Blood Flood'. Statistics show that 378 units of blood were collected in the drive that ended at 8 pm.

"We had 478 donors, which was heartening at a time when the fear factor is so huge. There were 408 pre-registered donors, and 70 walk-ins, but 100 of them were sent back for different reasons. The drive saw discipline, absolute physical distancing, very high levels of hygiene and top notch equipment by the team on the ground," said Naveen Hegde, part of the organising team.

Nearly 500 donors came for the ‘Operation Blood Flood’ organised at Swatantra Veer Savarkar Smarak, Shivaji Park, on August 15. PIC/ASHISH RAJENearly 500 donors came for the 'Operation Blood Flood' organised at Swatantra Veer Savarkar Smarak, Shivaji Park, on August 15. Pic/ Ashish Raje

The volunteers said the "smooth procedure set a new blueprint for blood donation drives".

Champion's choice

It's the story behind the statistics, though, that prove inspirational. The guest of honour, Chirag Shetty, the young Commonwealth badminton gold medallist (mixed event) and silver medallist in the men's doubles, said, "I donated blood for the first time. When I arrived at the Smarak, I was asked if I wished to donate. I told them I did but would like to practise badminton afterwards. They told me that I cannot for 24 hours. Yet, by donating blood, I was saving up to three lives, so I decided to do so."

A father's appeal

Daljit Singh Sehgal from Sion made the trip to the venue "to procure two units of blood for my daughter who is a thalassemia patient. She needs blood every fortnight and has been taking transfusion for 24 years. It has been very difficult as blood banks are running dry. We cannot blame anybody, but when looking for blood, we have received answers like, 'how can we give you blood, we do not have a factory'. Usually, most donors are college students and with institutes closed due to the outbreak, this demographic is at home. Hence, the donations have dropped and blood stores are scarce. I urge people to donate as people are struggling. I understand that everybody has problems during this challenging time, be it financial or other. But, blood cannot be manufactured in a factory, it needs humans and that is why the appeal," finished Sehgal.

Can donate every 3 months

Milind Soman, the event ambassador and Shivaji Park local said, "I visited 'Ground Zero' for 'Operation Blood Flood' and made my donation debut here. I thank the team for the opportunity. There have been a lot of myths about blood donation but it is actually very healthy and you can help someone who is in need. You can donate blood every three months if you are healthy," finished Soman, for whom running is religion.

We seek a small difference

Professor Sunil Rajadhyaksha, head, Department of Transfusion Medicine, TMC, said, "Blood stocks started depleting soon after lockdown. Donors had misplaced fears about contracting COVID-19 if they were to visit the hospital blood bank. Mumbai blood banks have very low inventory. Residential complexes should organise camps in their societies."

blood

Dr C S Pramesh, director, TMC, too, said that "we saw a drastic fall in the number of voluntary donors. We reached a point where Tata Memorial Hospital staff was the only sustainable donors left! 'Operation Blood Flood' was a great initiative during this extreme crisis."

Dr Girish Chinnaswammy, professor and head, Paediatric Oncology, TMC, took an overarching view of donation in the country. "Less than one per cent of the eligible population donates blood. If this number can be increased to just two percent by upping awareness and increasing societal participation through such camps, then the entire country's problem will be solved. The difference between one and two may seem small but that is all we seek."

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First Published: 17 August, 2020 07:03 IST

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