There is an energy in the youth which is very difficult to match in the atmosphere of cynicism once we grow up. The mindset is one of “Do it!” rather than “Not done!” I go back to the ‘90s when a group of us friends decided to do what was then we thought a gargantuan task for us; organize a blood donation camp. We started off on a breeze given the fact that we had a readymade location available with us in our club auditorium, the club managing committee deciding to encourage us and the help rendered by the Secretary of Indian Red Cross Society, one Mr.Roy Choudhury who took care of the ‘back end’, the entire collection process right from arranging blood bank to collect, doctors, equipment etc. Our responsibility was confined to the ‘front end’ of the business, arranging the donors. For a bunch that lived in a fairly well connected para, thanks to our club and its close knit members this was like taking candy from a child. The knowledge that there lay a salesman buried inside me was visible for the first time then! A cursory look at the club membership list later, we decided that the we would require more than one blood bank to collect all the units that we would be able to generate! I still practice this ‘art’ though I call it ‘Sales projection' now, the membership lists being replaced by market research papers and Thomson’s Index. But then I digress!
Armed with the gyaan given by the good people at Red Cross on eligibility of a donor etc we started canvassing for; nay enlisting donors. We covered all the ‘routes’ within three days and reached our ‘Boss’ at The Red Cross office for reporting. Mr.Roy Choudhury was deluged by our ‘requirements’ post sharing the numbers of donors who had ‘committed’. We were then advised to cover the same ‘routes’ for a reminder call to the donors informing them about the dates, timing etc which had been freezed. Our only concern as we left the meeting was that the blood bank should bring sufficient collection units lest we have a ‘stock out’!
For the next few days like committed sales team, we spewed blood whenever we opened out mouth, whoever we met! To the extent we friends were bestowed nomenclatures like ‘The Blood Suckers’, ‘The Blood Thirsty Bandits’ and the lyrical ‘Ratha Kaatteri’ by the locality! The last minute review of the ‘committed’ list revealed that there were a few drop outs due to sudden illnesses, ‘out of station’ etc but still we seemed well on course to a triple century on debut.
On the D day everything worked with clockwork precision. The auditorium was festooned with banners and promo material. The Red Cross officials, the Doctors, the paramedics, the equipment all ready to receive the donors. The day started slowly like a good test match inning, gradually moved to very slow and finally ended in a stand still. The final score read something like this: Total Walkins – 140, productive customers – 23, Window Shoppers – 117. A fiasco if there was one! And it left us firstly very angry, then disappointed, finally disillusioned. Never again would we indulge in such a venture on the back of such ‘customers’ we thought. A debate ensued as to who among us will take the lead to apologise to Mr.Roy Choudhury , the ‘Boss’! As we were busy discussing it, Mr.RC made it easy by addressing us instead. “Excellent day! 23 first time donors are more than what we get in a ‘club organized ‘camp. Mark the date and organize it again next year. And yes! We will come back next year too!” He said. This was our first experience of “Boss is out, Mentor is in” moment!
We went on to conduct the camp for a few more years till the rat race consumed us. The number of donors steadily grew to hit about 150+ over the years. Most of them went on to become regular blood donors in life. A register mentioning details of the donors was maintained in the club for ‘emergencies’ and on one occasion fourteen of us donated blood to a friend’s sister undergoing an operation. She needless to add is now completely healthy, happily married and a mother of two angels. Other clubs in the adjoining paras were inspired by our efforts to conduct similar camps and many of them still continue organizing them.
For those who came in late:
If you are 18-60 years, 45 kgs or more, have not suffered from illness like malaria, typhoid, other transmissible disease and certified medically fit by the doctor can donate blood.
You cannot donate blood if you have suffered from cold/fever less than a week ago, consumed antibiotics, had a major surgery within the last six months, vaccination less than 24 hours ago, have a history of cardiac problems, hypertension, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, liver and kidney malfunction or HIV+.
Against an annual requirement of 85 lakh units of blood barely 52 lakh units are collected through voluntary donations in India. Some are collected through family members. And the rest are left helpless and often to die because you could but didn’t donate the life giving liquid!
PS: Done with reading this? Good! So which blood bank are you off to now?
Ratha Kaatteri : Blood Sucker.