A volunteer group of 1,500 is helping save lives by donating blood for those in urgent need in Oman. The group springs into action with just one call and finds a suitable donor for anyone in the sultanate.
“Sorry, I am infected with coronavirus and currently in isolation. I will not be able to donate, but I will share the number of a friend who will help you,” said Abdul Shamim A, mistaking Muscat Daily’s call for a plea from someone needing blood. Shamim is purchase manager of a supermarket chain in Muscat and a volunteer of We Help BDK (Blood Donors Kerala) Oman.
The group began with Vinod Bhaskaran, a bus conductor for India’s Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, starting ‘We Help’ – a Facebook group in 2011 – offering voluntary services for those in need. Following numerous requests of blood transfusion in hospitals, the group was renamed Blood Donors Kerala in 2014.
“Here in Oman, we started a branch with four people the same year. We have more than 1,500 members now offering 24×7 support,” said one of the founder members in Oman requesting anonymity. While doing away with organisational hierarchy – there are only coordinators and donors – BDK is a registered charity in India with branches in Bahrain, Kuwait, Singapore and the UAE, besides Oman.
Need 100 donors a day
According to Ministry of Health reports, blood banks in Oman need about 5,000 units of blood per month. This requirement of health institutions across the country can only be met if the Central Blood Bank in Bausher has 100-120 donors a day.
“We have a coordination team that covers the whole of the country. When a patient needs blood, the hospital refers them to our coordinators who arrange a volunteer donor. If for some reason a donor is unavailable immediately, we request the blood bank to supply the units and we arrange a volunteer to compensate the units issued within 24 hours,” said another coordinator of the group.
According to the coordinator, on an average the group receives ten calls every month for requirements ranging from one to four units depending on patients’ needs. Most requests are from Muscat and sometimes from Barka and Sohar.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, We Help BDK Oman held at least two blood donation camps annually. “Now, our volunteers donate at the Bausher Blood Bank. For our volunteers who don’t drive, others who do arrange transport to and from the blood bank,” the coordinator informed. The group includes a Bangladeshi expat volunteer who worked as a tailor in Muscat until recently. Having lost his job, he has since moved to Salalah to work as cleaner. “In Muscat, I donated blood five times. Since I am new in Salalah, I haven’t donated yet but I am ready to help anyone in need of blood.”
Rare blood group donors needed
For common blood groups, We Help BDK Oman arranges volunteers in a matter of minutes, but may need more time for rare ones. “Among the 1,500 volunteers, only 34 are rare blood group types. They are always in high demand,” Shamim said.
With O –ve blood group, he is among the 34. “I recently donated to a child. I was happy to help and am always ready for the next call.” But the question, ‘What if I need blood?’ often weighs on his mind.
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(Text by Syed Fasiuddin)
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