Despite being a country with 1.2 billion people, India faces a blood shortage of three million units. This can be sorted out if an additional two percent of her people donated blood, say health experts. To add to the woes, irregularities of some blood banks in collection and distribution of blood also affects a donor’s intention to donate blood.
The idea of virtual blood banks (VBB) is thus catching up across the country and Rotaract Club of Altruism, Kolkata is offering the service to needy patients. So how does it work? Explains Deep Shankar Saha, the president of the club: “The virtual blood bank is an online database, where details of potential donors such as blood group, contact, etc., are stored. The data is sorted according to area/locality so that help is available quickly. Here you need not actually donate blood until someone in your neighbourhood needs it.”
Unlike blood donation camps, where precious blood gets wasted sometimes either due to abundance or short expiry dates (the shelf-life of donated blood is 35 to 42 days), here blood is donated by donors only when the necessity arises. The concept also eliminates the chance of blood smuggling, as donors know who they are donating to.
Asked how it all started, Deep reminisces their first project, a blood donation camp for thalassemia patients which they organised in February 2014 at Kolkata at a cost of Rs 15,000. He was amazed at the overwhelming response to the call and the idea of VBB was then born. The main objective of VBB was to stop illegal syphoning of blood for commercial reasons. On how it works, he says the recipient’s relative or the hospital can place a call on their helpline which is open 24 x 7, and the Rotaractors zero in on the registered donors who match the patient’s requirement. Then physically donation takes place.
If you are above 17 and fit, you can register with this VBB by filling out the form at http://bit.ly/virtualbloodbank
The club has also launched a facebook page, Virtual Blood Bank of RC Altruism, and within 24 hours of its launch on August 1, they were pleasantly surprised to have 600+ registrations. Currently based at West Bengal, they have plans to expand across India and tie-up with other Rotaract clubs, who have similar movements. Today, VBB has more than 1,100 registrants pan India and they have also responded to blood donation requests at Bangalore and Chennai, says the club President.
Rotaract Club of Altruism was sponsored by Rotary Calcutta Outram, RI District 3291. Chartered in March 2014, it has 30 members on its roster, the average age being only 22 years. The Rotaractors are an enthusiastic team. They have organised a two-day medical camp at Chandrapur in Burdwan district where 546 people were screened and provided treatment for various ailments. The region, they say, had no doctors in its vicinity and the camp has benefitted the villagers. The Rotaractors visit Rupayan, a rehab centre for street children, periodically and particularly on festive occasions and provide them the necessary support.
Justifiably, they won the ‘Best New Club’ award at the 2013–14 District Rotaract Conference.