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JIS News

As the festive season approaches, the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) is encouraging more Jamaicans to give blood through the message, ‘Give the gift of blood this Christmas’.
“We are still trying to sell people the idea that this could be something they do for the good of the rest of Jamaica; their contribution to society,” said Communications Officer for the Voluntary Blood Donor Programme, Sandra Brown. She was speaking to JIS News at the donor appreciation day held today (Dec. 6) at the NBTS’ Slipe Pen Road headquarters.
She said that getting persons to volunteer was still proving to be quite a challenge and the event was to “show our valued donors just how much we appreciate their contribution to us over the past year.”
“We are still having a difficulty seducing many persons to the idea of becoming voluntary donors. For those persons, who are committed to us, we are really attempting to show that we appreciate them”.
Meanwhile, Miss Brown said that despite a successful two-day blood drive at the University of the West Indies last month, overall, collection for the year was not “looking so good”.
She attributed the reduced collections to heavy rains. “We found that people didn’t come into the centres as much and even we were unable to go out for drives because of the bad weather,” she said.
Commenting on the laboratory figures for today, Miss Brown told JIS News that at this point, “it is not looking so bad, but depending on the requests coming in from the hospitals, it could jump. We are never at a point when we become complacent, because we are always on the edge.you could be just a moment away from not being able to fill demand, or not being able to fill the demand in time”.
The Communications Officer further informed that approximately 50 per cent of the population had type ‘O’ positive blood, while some 25 per cent had ‘A’ positive, and an estimated 20 per cent are ‘B’ positive. About four per cent are ‘AB’ positive, which is among the rarer blood types.
She explained that “the negatives are in the very rare groups and persons in those categories, if they themselves are not blood donors, when they fall ill, they have a difficulty in getting blood, because there are not that many people in their group in the first place. So, especially persons, who have negatives whether ‘O’ negative ‘B’ negative, ‘AB’, or ‘A’, we try and encourage those persons to be blood donors”.
Miss Brown emphasized that all blood types were needed in general as although a larger percentage of the population may have a particular type, this meant that this blood type would be utilized faster than the other types.
There are some 2,000 persons on the blood donor list and some 900 of these donate on a regular basis. “Being a voluntary blood donor means that you commit yourself to coming in at least three times for the year. You can give blood every three months. Persons who are in peak health and whose bodies are used to the process can do it more often,” Miss Brown informed.
She noted that the main concern for most persons was a fear of the needle. “Also too, there is another set of persons, who suspect that they may have taken a risk here and there and they know the testing process is very strict. We test for everything. We encourage people..it is better to know. Get tested, because then you can deal with it,” she urged.
Healthy persons from ages 17 to 60 or 65 may donate blood. Miss Brown said the Service’s blood drives had done well over the years at colleges and universities. “A great part of our mobile collections come from schools. UWI is the most successful drive we have had,” she said. Miss Brown stressed that becoming a voluntary donor required deep commitment, as “a lot of people will promise you verbally, but the actual follow up has to be done”.
Seven-time volunteer donor Gauntlett Sappleton, who was participating in the appreciation day, told JIS News that he volunteers once per year and had started out by giving blood for himself and now donates for other persons.
“I realize now that it can be some benefit for you. When you meet in an accident on the road, it can be important. That is why I went so far as to get the card, so if I am in an accident, when someone sees the card, then right away they will see what blood group you are. People out there who are reluctant to give blood, I would invite them right now to give blood. It is important, that is your life line,” Mr. Sappleton encouraged.
Interested persons may call the National Blood Transfusion Service at 922-5181-5 or visit any of the following blood collection centres: Mandeville Hospital in Manchester; National Chest Hospital, University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and NBTS on Slipe Road in Kingston; May Pen Hospital in Clarendon; Port Antonio Hospital in Portland; Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland and, Cornwall Regional Hospital in St. James.