SHARJAH // Soldiers, students, police and taxi drivers were just some of those calling into the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre in the build up to National Day celebrations to give blood to those who need it most.
The centre extended its opening hours from 8am to 8pm for the public holiday to encourage more people to visit the clinic and top up the nation’s blood banks.
First time donors were put at ease by calming words from doctors and veterans of the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s latest blood donation campaign.
Sharjah police officer Mohamed Al Ghafri Al Amiri, 26, was giving his blood for a fifth time, and reassured new donors they were offering the nation a great service helping those facing an uncertain future.
“People should not be afraid, it is a very easy process,” he said. “I have given blood four times before, the first time I was just 18.
“It is an important thing to do to help others, so long as you eat before and are prepared, there is no problem. My police colleagues and friends in the military have also been giving blood, we want to show an example to others.”
Donors undergo a brief physical examination to assess weight, blood pressure and general health. Anyone wishing to offer blood must be aged 18-60, and not have visited a country associated with malaria for at least 12 months. A one month waiting period must be observed between donations.
Last year, on National Day, more than 100 donors gave blood, with nurses aiming to collect even more during this year’s campaign.
“I always try to reassure new donors,” said Dr Shimaa Hussein, medical director of the Sharjah Blood Transfusion and Research Centre, which is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks.
“People should not worry, blood is reproduced all of the time and it is a healthy thing to do. There are no religious restrictions, anyone can donate blood,”
Blood samples are placed into machines and spun at high speed, to separate the platelets from blood plasma, so both can be used to independently treat different medical conditions such as certain cancers or liver disease.
Donations are delivered to 41 private and public hospitals and clinics around the country.
A mobile transplant unit capable of treating up to 80 donors a day is regularly tours the country to collect blood. A second unit is due to hit the road early next year to further improve available stocks.
Doctors screen blood for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis and other potential diseases that may make the blood unsuitable for transplant.
Blood banks are in particular need of AB negative, the rarest blood type. On average, about 5 percent of the population is AB negative. There are four major types of blood: A, B, AB and O.
IT student Faisal Abdalla Hassan Mohamed Al Ali, 23, started donating after being encouraged by his father.
“I wanted to help people and my father said this was a good way to start,” he said. “I thought I would get dizzy or feel faint and fall over, but it was fine. After the first time, I told my friends and have asked them to come along this year.”
Road traffic accidents and transfusions to help those suffering from leukemia are some of the most common uses for the donations, and the demand is increasing as the populations grows.
“It takes just 8-10 minutes to withdraw 450ml of blood, it is very easy to do,” said Dr Asmaa Amer, head of blood donation clinic.
“The machine keeps the blood moving to mix the anti-coagulants to stop it from clotting. After collection and separation we screen the blood, then it is issued to the clinics via specially modified vehicles with onboard refrigeration.”
The blood donor centre in Sharjah is open from 8am to 8pm during the National Day and Commemoration Day public holidays, including Saturday.