Sandra Wekesa and Irene Mwambura @AndayiSandra @JumwaMwambura
Facing the sky with her thoughts completely out of this world, Rejoice Decker lays on the blood donor chair, waiting for the doctor to come and draw blood from her vein. She is ready to take a step so many people fear, with the hope that the needle insertion won’t be as painful as the last time.
As a teenager, Decker was declared anaemic due to losing a lot of blood during her period. “I used to bleed a lot during my menstrual cycle and at 13, I had to seek medical help, but the hospital did not have my blood type. I slowly become pale and my parents were so worried because I had not gotten a donor,” she says.
She spent every minute thinking of how quick a donor could come and save her. Fortunately for her, a lady who had just lost her child walked in, found everyone busy looking for her blood type and decided to donate blood. To Decker, this was a big step and since then, she decided to become a frequent donor and help save lives.
“I have donated blood four times now, I don’t get scared because I take tests regularly and I’m confident about myself. I’m not scared about where my blood will go because in the long run, it will save someone somewhere,” she adds.
Her case is not any different from that of Wesley Casmir. At just 21, he has mastered the act of donating and he is proud to say that he is an active donor having donated blood five times. “When I donate blood, I feel like I am helping. To me, it is a form of charity. We have medics in our family and they guide me on how I can go about donation anytime I want to,” he says.
He adds that in his circle of friends, many people are cautious about the first time donating blood. They experience a lot of anxiety and many of them back off and don’t actually get to donate blood at all. “The first time I donated blood, it was not as big of a deal as I had thought. I just sat down and before I knew it, I was done,” says Casmir.
Process of donation
According to Kioi Njuguna, a haematologist, blood donation is one of the processes that everyone needs to embrace in their lifetime. The age consent of donation is between 16 and 55 years and a donor needs to be above 50kg, with haemoglobin level of 12.5 and above.
Njuguna adds that although most people have the fear of donating blood, it is actually beneficial to the body. He attributes strong immunity to frequency in blood donation, and points out it also helps replace blood components in the bone marrow within three and four months.
“The moment you have established a blood drive, you can go register, then ensure that you check your weight before filling in the medical history form. Be sure to specify if you have been on any medication in the past few months and highlight any transfusion undergone in the past few months,” he says, adding that checking haemoglobin content in the blood only happens after a donor has filled out the medical history form.
What follows is a number of tests before the drawing of about 450ml in a span of less than 10 minutes. “Donating doesn’t take long, but after that make sure you take refreshments and more fluids to add on to the liquid you will have donated,” he says.
Some donors will suffer side effects such as nausea, and dizziness, but Njuguna says it is no cause of worry as the effects disappear in time.
According to Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS), 164,745 units of blood are collected annually, of which approximately 45,000 units are collected in every quarter, which is about 340,000 units less the 500,000 units of blood needed in the country.
Such shortage pushed KNBTS to conduct drives, which allowed them to collect enough blood in good time. Joseph Kamotho, KNTBS Public Relations Officer says that they are represented in 31 sites in the country, with six regional centres located in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Embu, Eldoret and Kisumu.
He adds that in most blood donation drives, men tend to donate as opposed to women because men have less care and are available in the public domain. Blood donation in the country is free and the transfusion service offers blood to hospitals for free as well.
Kamotho further urges Kenyans to come out in large numbers to donate blood in order to save lives.