Pilot blood donor project for Thalassemia patients

DUBAI — A pilot project that can save the lives of 420 Thalassemia patients at Dubai’s Blood Donation Centre is seeking donors who can commit to donating blood thrice a year.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Mon 19 Sep 2011, 10:40 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:55 AM

Being launched for the first time in the region, the project requires 5,040 regular blood donors to sponsor (non-monetary) one Thalassemia patient each by committing to donate blood regularly, three times a year.

The project that will streamline the blood collection system is expected to take one year at least to reach its full potential, said Dr Laila Al Shaer, Director of the Blood Donation Centre at the Dubai Health Authority.

“It ensures that the donor commits to this cause and if he or she cannot be present for a donation, they can send a friend or a family member as a replacement. It is the same concept of supporting a child through sponsorship, but it is non-monetary and the donation is life-saving,” she explained.

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder and to survive, patients require life-long blood transfusions taken at least once a month. One in 12 persons in the UAE is said to be suffering from the disease.

“Forty-five per cent of all blood collected at the centre is required for Thalassemia patients. This accounts to 15,000 units of packed red blood cells. Therefore, if we get regular donors who meet this demand, we can focus on utilising the blood we collect for other purposes such as trauma and accident cases, emergency cases in the labour room for pregnant women who suffer from complications during delivery, cancer patients etc,” she said.

“We do not have a shortage of blood, but this project streamlines the entire system of blood collection because we can match the blood groups of Thalassemia patients with their regular donors,” added Dr Al Shaer.

“Moreover, when the donor personally knows the patient he is donating blood for, it reinforces the importance of donating blood and this humanitarian cause which helps save the lives of these people.” Dr Shaer also said that each Thalassemia patient requires 34 units of blood per year. “Instead of approaching 34 blood donors, randomly, we require only 12 donors per patient to donate blood three times a year.

“We will also ensure all the regular blood donors share the same blood group as the Thalassemia patient,” said the doctor. “We have 420 registered Thalassemia patients which means we require 5,040 regular donors to fullfil this requirement.”

Forty per cent of the Thalassemia patients are Emiratis, 40 per cent Asians and another 20 per cent Arabs from the region. “These patients require blood every three weeks and this is a life-long procedure. Many of the patients begin taking blood donations from six months of age.

“Bone marrow transplant is medically applicable for a minority of these patients while the risk of death is significantly high. Moreover, finding a match is also not an easy task.”

The centre currently has 80,000 donors of whom 40 per cent are regular donors. Dr Al Shaer said in addition to the mobile campaigns, the centre will implement a new project by mid-2012 whereby donors can donate blood at Dubai or Rashid hospitals directly.

“They will function as mini-blood collection sites for the convenience of donors. However, blood processing will continue to take place at DBDC.” One unit of processed blood can be used for four patients. Of the five blood banks in the UAE, 50 per cent of all blood collected in is by the Dubai Blood Donation Centre. The DBDC collected 17,660 units of blood in 2001 and this number doubled to 35,012 in 2009. To become a regular blood donor, please contact the Dubai Blood Donation Centre at 04-219 3221 or 04-2193768.


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