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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blood Donation!

              Last Sunday one member from a NGO called Think foundation came to our parish to tell us about Thalassemia . Since we decided to organize a blood donation drive the priest in-charge of the youth suggested that we do it for this cause. It was really enlightening to hear this man speak as I didn't know much about the disorder and what the people suffering from it go through.. For those of you who don't know what Thalassemia is here is some info on the topic ..

             Thalassemia  is a genetic blood disease. People born with this disease cannot make normal hemoglobin (anemia) which is needed to produce healthy red blood cells.
             People with a thalassemia mutation only in one gene are carriers or are said to have thalassemia minor. Thalassemia minor results in no anemia or very slight anemia. Carriers do not require blood transfusion or iron therapy, unless proven to be iron deficient.
             Children born with thalassemia major usually develop the symptoms of severe anemia within the first year of life. The lack the ability to produce hemoglobin.Prolonged anemia will cause bone deformities and eventually will lead to death within the first decade of life. The only treatment to combat severe anemia is  regular blood transfusions (often every 2 to 4 weeks). These transfusions helps them maintain normal hemoglobin and red blood cell levels.
            Because the hemoglobin in red blood cells is an iron-rich protein, regular blood transfusions can lead to a buildup of iron in the blood. This condition is called iron overload. It damages the liver, heart, and other parts of the body.
To prevent this damage, iron chelation therapy is needed to remove excess iron from the body. Two medicines are used for iron chelation therapy.
  • Deferoxamine is a liquid medicine that's given slowly under the skin, usually with a small portable pump used overnight. This therapy takes time and can be mildly painful. Side effects include problems with vision and hearing.
  • Deferasirox is a pill taken once daily. Side effects include headache, nausea (feeling sick to the stomach), vomiting, diarrhea, joint pain, and fatigue (tiredness).(Info edited from this site)
            Undergoing transfusions every two weeks from the time you are kids is no small feat, it is a way of life for these patients, the person from the NGO told us that they even joke about it. Also because of the high number of transfusions they undergo they have a greater risk of contracting various blood-borne diseases such as HIV, AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C. Apart from this they are at a greater risk for heart disease as well as osteoporosis. 
            Mr V told us that since every disease has a window period when the virus cannot be detected, sometimes the patients can receive infected blood and not know about it. The best and safest donors are those who donate blood voluntarily and this is one of the reasons that the NGO conducts blood donation drives almost every day, so that blood banks are stocked with enough blood from "safe donors" and there is enough for those suffering from thalassemia or any other disorder.
            I have been donating blood once a year from the time I turned 18 and never thought twice about it. I didn't think about where the blood went, who it must go to and about what a difference I would be making by this one act that I did without even thinking too much about. Last Sunday I realized what it can mean, not only for people suffering from thalassemia but from any other disease or disorder, that there is enough of blood stocked in the blood banks. It makes this drive we are conducting even more meaningful and has filled me with the enthusiasm to see a lot of people coming to donate blood on 25th March!
            I am keeping my fingers crossed and telling everyone I know about the drive. Whether it is to donate blood, spread the word, or simply come to support the people donating blood, everyone can help. 
Please do pray that we have a successful drive!

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