Red is not just a political colour

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We would like to throw our support behind the call for blood to be donated to the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC), as well as the Red Cross, and for the establishment of a national blood donation centre.
Recently, Laboratory Services and Quality Manager at MSJMC, Barbara Joseph made the call for the centre and pointed out that other countries have opted to separate their blood banks from the main hospital to provide for more effective collection of the life-saving substance. She said, “The most ideal situation would be to have a separate unit that has its own mandate and staffing to manage a national scale.”
In explaining the current location of the bank and the reason for having it, she said, “The purpose of our blood bank is to service MSJMC, but in Antigua, we are small and that is why the blood bank is attached to the hospital”, adding that the purpose of the blood bank is to “provide safe and reliable blood and blood products without shortage, to manage and treat patients that are in the hospital”.
It is very likely that if you are an adult, you have had someone you know in the hospital and in need of blood and have been asked to donate. This on-demand system has been very frustrating for both the hospital and patients. There really has never been the “constant and regular supply of blood donors”, and that, as indicated by Ms Joseph, would alleviate many of the problems facing the MSJMC as it relates to blood.
Obviously, this is not a new issue. It has been going on for some time; some say, “forever”. That said, there have been efforts to address the issue in the past. Aside from the hospital’s efforts, in early 2015, the Antigua & Barbuda Red Cross launched a blood donation drive in response to the general need, and the news that the blood bank at MSJMC was at a critically low level.
At the time, the energetic Red Cross Youth and Volunteer Manager, Michael Joseph, said the programme, which was dubbed ‘Club Lyfe’, was expected to manage and promote blood donations as well as improve the bank’s supply in all the blood groups.
The initiative was, and is, a good one. Back then we threw our support behind the initiative and we still throw our support behind it today. According to Joseph, the concept behind the drive was to identify people as “heroes” and not just “donors”. He said, “They’re really everyday heroes, not fantasy heroes like Batman and Superman. They get up and do something and save people’s lives without knowing who they’re saving.” What a great way of putting it.
The Red Cross had also promoted another initiative before Club Lyfe. It was called ‘Club 25’ — a Red Cross project that targeted young adults between the ages of 16 and 25 to become voluntary blood donors. The members were to “commit to regular blood donations and a healthy way of life in order to meet the requirements for donors.” The smart concept behind Club 25 was that “members save lives while also preserving their own health and encouraging others to do the same.” Unfortunately, that project seems to have faded somewhat but that is what happens sometimes when youth are the target of commitment.
We make mention of the Red Cross because the organisation is one that is global in nature, has great accessibility to resources beyond financial, and is well versed in collecting blood and maintaining blood banks.  They seem to be a great fit as a partner for creating a national blood donation centre. Oftentimes, we re-invent the wheel and overlook solutions that are staring us in the face because we are ‘too close to the trees to see the forest’.
Having a functioning blood bank that is well maintained and consistently replenished is extremely important. And if for no other reason, the selfish notion of self-preservation should spring to mind. The cliché, “the life you save may be your own”, is a time worn cliché for a reason. Accidents, by definition, can happen at any time to anyone. If you are the victim of an accident, you would want to have the piece of mind that there is an adequate supply of blood in case you need.
So if the thought has not crossed anyone’s minds, we suggest that the powers-that-be take a good look at the local Red Cross and see if they cannot become a great partner in our goal to creating a life-saving, national blood bank.
And if this thought has not crossed your mind after reading this piece, then give blood! The life you save may be your own!

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