25 June 2019

Sierra Leone: Federick's Vioce

The pain of being a blood donor

Proverb has it that: "he who feels it knows it". I have definitely felt it, so I know exactly how painful it is. Being a blood donor in Sierra Leone is an experience, and when you are in need of blood again as a donor is another experience of its own. Like I said, I have being in both situations.

I became a blood donor in the early 2007. This happened after a group of staff from the Blood Transfusion Services showed up at our assembly ground at the Albert Academy compound in Freetown. We were explicitly told about blood donation and it benefits. Among other things, we were told that if one donates blood, it's means one has not only saved the life of someone that they don't know, but would also stand the chance of saving his or her immediate family in the instance where blood intervention is needed.

To allay our fears, they assured us that nobody had ever died as a result of donating blood. They said that blood officials would ever allow someone to donate blood without conducting proper medical examinations on the person prior to the donation. I became more interested to become a blood donor after they told us that it wasn't matter where someone became a member of the blood donor family, and that no sooner one donated a single unit of blood, it meant that person had automatically joined the network of blood banks throughout Sierra Leone. So if even you were in Freetown and one of your immediate family members needed blood in Makeni, all they had to do was to check your information on their data base to confirm the legitimacy of your membership and they would make the required blood available for their treatment.

I became so interested that I didn't only become a donor, but I also persuaded two of my friends- Abu Kabia and Ibrahim Fullah- to join the network. We were donating blood after every three months at the blood bank situated at the Connaught government hospital in Freetown. Because of my commitment towards the blood donation process by then, I was chosen among my colleagues to attend a two-day workshop at the Red Cross Society conference hall. The workshop was mainly to train us the skills to use in persuading someone who has never donated blood to be interested in doing so.

I only stopped donating blood after my father threatened that he would cease all forms of support towards my schooling if I continue to donate blood. This happened after he accidentally came across my donor identity card and the badge which were given to me by the SLSBS. I immediately went and explained to the blood officials about my father's position towards the blood donation thing. I further introduced my father's way of doing things to them, and how far he would go to see that his words stand. They assured me that as long as I had been donating before my father's intervention, I would continue to be a donor forever according to their records. All these happened between 2007 to 2009.

Some three years later, I eventually became a father while pursuing my first degree program in college. There was a time when my son became very ill. I had to take him to the Ola During at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH) in the eastern part of Freetown. Upon our arrival at the hospital, I noticed so many women outside the first gate of the hospital crying bitterly with their sick children in their hands. I passed through them trying to enter the gate when the security stopped me and said the doctor in charge had instructed him not to let anyone in. When I asked him to tell me the reason why the doctor had refused seeing any patient, he said it was an order. During the discussion with the security, I noticed that my son had already been attacked by convulsion. The next action I took was to grab the security by his neck and pinned him against the wall and instructed him to look at my son condition. I told him that media houses would put our story in their front pages if anything happened to my son at that gate. He quickly opened the gate and I dashed through into the office of the doctor with my son held in my hands. I don't want to bother you with what transpired between me, the doctor and the nurses that were around at that moment because it was a whole drama which I would have to write about in the subsequent publications of this column( Frederick's Voice).

It was at last settled that my son needed blood after thorough examination by the doctor, and was I straight away given a piece of paper and directed to the blood bank. I zoomed my way to the bank sweating profusely. I immediately asked the guy I met at the door - whom I assumed to be the security guard- for the authority in charge. Well, the said guy later turned out to be the man in charge of the bank who took the paper from me, and asked me if I was ready for the blood. As if he was interested, I introduced myself as one of the blood donors in Sierra Leone and showed him my identity card. Immediately after that, he took some steps backward and went back to his sit without saying anything to me. With surprise, I tried to advance towards him when he told me that there was no blood in the bank. I further tried to convince him to look at the blood donors' record so as to make him believe what I was saying. His response was that there was no data base to justify my claims, and that I was wasting my time and by extension playing with the life of my son. It was at that moment I knew the agony of blood donors. I was about to go and take my son to other private hospital when one lady bumped into me and requested for le 180,000 for a unit of blood.

It was only then I saw the lady went into the same blood bank and came out with the blood and the paper I had earlier on given to the guy in charge.

The status of blood donors in Sierra Leone is very sorry. Imagine if Ola During government hospital right in the city does not have a proper database to keep track of blood donors, what would be the fate of Pendembu government hospital in terms of blood donors?

June 14th was the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD)' and the new Head of Blood Transfusion Services, Prof. Sahr Moses Ngavao, said that any child that was within the age of the Free Health Care should get free blood. My son who was just three years old would have died even though his father was a blood donor, and also in the era of the Free Health Care.

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