Thoughts on the true nature of heroism, life & blood

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/11 1:48:03

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

I was told a truly inspiring story. A very pregnant mother suffered a hemorrhage. Emergency rescue and 7,000 milliliters of blood later, she survived. A new baby kept his mother. A husband still had a wife and a family did not lose a daughter, all thanks to the 7,000 milliliters of blood.

In the operating rooms and emergency clinics across the nation, there are many similar stories that inspire us to see the good in our society and the people we might meet on the street.

The blood donation rate in China has rapidly risen in the past few years. But insufficient blood donation is still regarded as the main reason for a blood shortage in the country, The Lancet reported.

That probably has something to do with unexpected episodes in some people's blood-donation experience.

One of my friends suffered such a minor inconvenience quite recently.

A nurse was testing him to see whether he was anemic before collecting his blood. "So 200ccs…Mmmm... you seem strong, how about trying 400ccs?" she cooed. "It's totally inconsequential to an adult."

My friend did not agree and received an eye roll.

I was not surprised by his story.

Five years ago, I donated blood. My blood type is Rh-negative, nicknamed "panda blood" for its rarity. When the nurse noticed, her eyes lit up. I felt like a treasure chest unearthed on a desert island.

She worked hard to convince me that 200ccs and 400ccs were "pretty much the same thing" and would not affect my health at all. Although I had already been asked earlier outside how much I was willing to donate, my word did not count. The nurse grew more persuasive. I began to feel more selfish, so I agreed.

As the blood left me, I felt dizzy, short of breath and then... I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I was lying on a sofa with my arm bandaged.

Since then, I have never again donated blood.

Donating blood is an honorable thing: This is rightly the consensus view. Unpaid blood donations are encouraged worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the safest blood comes from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors. But in China, some people increasingly feel antipathy toward the idea.

What puts us off is not the donation itself, but the peculiar culture surrounding that donation. On billboards we are encouraged to "become a hero." But once we enter the donation center, we don't get treated much like heroes. More like walking blood machines.

The attitude of nurses is not the only issue. When you donate, you may be promised priority access to a blood transfusion for a future medical emergency should you yourself require blood. That seems like a real incentive.

But if a donor tries to cash that check, things may not always go so smoothly based on my own experience.

I needed minor surgery a few years ago, but the doctor told me the operation could not take place. Alas, there was no spare blood in the blood bank. I might need a transfusion after blood loss during surgery and so we must all just wait, she said. The blood bank told me they simply didn't have my blood type.

I told them I was a donor and had the certificate to prove it. To no effect. So I asked a relative to call his friend, the blood bank leader. Suddenly blood was ready and surgery was good to go. Those who enjoy privileged blood access are apparently not donors, but people with the right connections.

I try to believe that my own experience was unique because of my rare blood type and an unusual blood shortage.

I hope so. After all, to save a life should surely be more important than the minor inconvenience of a donation. I need to be a bigger person. And the blood management system of the nation needs to improve.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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