Blood shortage, lack of donors: In Hyd, children with thalassemia face long wait for precious blood

"This year has been the worst. There is a severe shortage of blood. The shortage we have been facing since April is worse than the pandemic and the lockdown combined," explained Dr. Suman Jain, the blood bank manager and pediatrician in charge at TSCS.

By Amrutha Kosuru  Published on  18 May 2022 5:17 AM GMT
Blood shortage, lack of donors: In Hyd, children with thalassemia face long wait for precious blood

Hyderabad: Kishore was scheduled to get a blood transfusion in the first week of May. It has been two weeks since and he has not found a donor. Kishore is 11 and a thalassemia patient. He needs a blood transfusion every 15-20 days due to his illness. With each passing day and without blood transfusion, his body grows weaker and more anaemic.

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder caused when the body doesn't make enough haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is an important part of the red blood cells (RBCs). According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when there isn't enough haemoglobin, the body's red blood cells don't function properly and they last shorter periods of time, so there are fewer healthy red blood cells traveling in the bloodstream.

Thalassemia patients are treated by transfusing red blood cells regularly to keep them healthy. Lack of RBCs cause dizziness, anaemia, cramps, and more.

Kishore is one of the 3,300 children registered at the Thalassemia Sickle Cell Society (TSCS) in Hyderabad.

TSCS is a non-profit NGO that aims at providing all the necessary medical care required for children suffering from thalassemia and sickle cell anaemia. Annually, the blood transfusion centre has very few donors during summer.

"This year has been the worst. There is a severe shortage of blood. The shortage we have been facing since April is worse than the pandemic and the lockdown combined," explained Dr. Suman Jain, the blood bank manager and pediatrician in charge at TSCS.

Each child requires one unit of RBC as per the severity of thalassemia. Usually, the time between blood transfusions varies from 20 to 45 days. TSCS only takes RBCs from the donated blood. The plasma and platelets are given to other blood banks and hospitals in the city.

"Even our relatives and friends have refused to donate blood. They keep saying that donating blood might have negative effects on their health as it is summer," explains Radhika, Kishore's mother. Radhika wishes that people apply the same situation to her son and understand how much he needs blood during summer. "My son was supposed to get a blood transfusion between 5-7 May. It's been 10 days, and he's growing weaker," she says.

Another child, Keerthi, received blood late twice in the last two months. "My daughter got blood almost five days late. She got really weak in those days," her mother says. "We have been coming to TSCS for four years. Any doctor in the city will guide you here. While blood shortage has been here for a while, it has truly been worse this year," she adds.

Despite conducting awareness camps and seeking out donors on social media, the blood shortage continues at TSCS.

Around 60-70 children suffering from thalassemia are given blood every day at TSCS. Due to the blood shortage, hardly 20 people are receiving blood. "On an average, we require 1,500-1,700 units of blood every month. But in April, we hardly received 1,000 units. It gets worse for rare blood groups," Dr. Suman says.

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