COVID-19 threat, Luzon lockdown scare off blood donors
MANILA, Philippines — The rise in novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases has led to the cancellation of several bloodletting events as donors have backed out for fear of contracting the virus, causing concern among those in need of regular blood tranfusions.
The Kamote Riders Solohista (KRS), composed of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts who donate not only blood but also breastmilk for preterm and sickly babies, called off a blood donation drive on March 15 after Metro Manila was placed under community quarantine.
“As of now, we really have a hard time finding donors. Before COVID-19, we already had difficulties,” said Aaron Buelo, a member of the advocacy group from eastern Metro Manila.
Not the safest place
“Now, because of current health emergency procedures, donors hesitate [all the more] to donate blood since blood transfusion is done in hospitals. [And] we know that hospitals are currently not the safest place to be in due to our current situation,” he added.
The lack of donors, however, is a cause for concern for Lea, whose 27-year-old brother was diagnosed with malignant leukemia in November.
When he ended up with a very low blood platelet after finishing chemotherapy last week, she had to turn to social media to ask for donations of blood type AB+ or A+.
“I hope donors will not back out as we really need blood,” Lea said, adding that buying blood from private companies was too expensive.
For Kristalline Yambot-Adriano, a KRS member who suffers from thalassemia, a blood disorder, ensuring an adequate blood supply for people like her was just one of the problems posed by the COVID-19 situation and the Luzon-wide lockdown being enforced by the government.
“This quarantine? All will be affected but mostly those who have special needs like me. It’s not only about blood supply anymore but how safe it is to go to the hospital to have blood transfusion… Next is how patients can go to the hospitals if public utility vehicles are banned from traveling?” she said.
“I hope people will still continue to donate blood despite the health crisis. I and other fellow thalassemia patients are already talking about what we can do about our situation,” she said.
On Monday afternoon, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) urged the public to donate blood to sustain its supply for patients.
“Mobile blood drives have been suspended and the number of volunteer donors has sharply declined. However, the demand for blood remains consistent,” the PGH said in an online announcement.
Kenneth Goyena, a nurse assigned at the hospital’s pediatric-hematology-oncology unit, was one of those who volunteered.
“Because of the lockdown, not many people go to hospitals to donate blood. We don’t have donors anymore as mobile drives were canceled so even the frontliners themselves—the doctors and nurses—are also donating. This is the negative effect of the lockdown,” he said.
“If doctors and nurses donate, it may affect their immune system. With the blood that we give, our hemoglobin, platelet count may decrease … which we really need right now because we are at the front line. We need to build up our resistance because we are also vulnerable,” he added.
Goyena said donors should not worry as the blood bank was located in a noncrowded area.
He advised donors to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands and avoid touching their face and eyes. The whole process takes only three hours.
Donors for the PGH blood bank are advised to make an appointment first. Call 0905-7201890 or 0947-4882817 for details.
In an interview, Philippine Red Cross chair Richard Gordon encouraged donors not to back out, adding that PRC personnel could pick up willing donors so they could donate blood.
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