For Mehul Doshi it was a request he couldn’t refuse. A regular blood donor, he had visited Tata Memorial Hospital when the mother of a 17-year-old girl requested him to donate platelets for her daughter.
He tried to ignore her, but when he heard about how difficult it is to arrange for platelets for cancer patients after chemotherapy, he agreed. Now, years later, he has donated platelets over 171 times and visits Tata Memorial Hospital every three weeks to donate his platelets.
Regular platelet donors like Doshi are responsible for the success of a first-of-its-kind initiative started in Mumbai. The campaign, ‘Save a Life’ was initiated in November 2009 by a team consisting of Transfusion Medicine specialists, pediatric oncologists from Tata Memorial Hospital with the support of Nargis Dutt Charitable Trust, ImPaCCT Foundation and G.J. Kapoor Foundation.
Platelets are crucial constituent of blood and are important for the treatment of cancers, infections like dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and bleeding post pregnancy. Children suffering from cancer often require eight to ten units of platelets during chemotherapy treatment. For years, families of cancer patients in Tata Memorial Hospital used to struggle to find the platelets required during treatment.
Thanks to the initiative, almost 90 per cent of 4,000 units platelet requirement in Tata Memorial Hospital is taken care of. In the last five years, a total of 2,280 donors were enrolled in the registry and 980 donated platelets.
It took various awareness drives and tie-ups with corporate and colleges for the rise in donations. “Thanks to the initiative the cancellation of treatment among cancer patients fell from 20 per cent to five per cent,” Shalini Jatia, a social worker at Tata Memorial Hospital, said.
Platelet donations collected on the Cell Separator Machine, called Single Donor Platelets (SDPs),are at least six times as effective as platelets separated from donated whole blood units. “In Mumbai we require at least 5,000 to 7,000 volunteer donations each year to meet the need” Dr. Sunil Rajadhyaksha, Head, Department of Transfusion Medicine, Tata Memorial Hospital said. He stressed that repeated volunteer donors like Doshi can help bridge the gap.
The novel model of volunteer registry has been presented in international conferences and is about to be replicated in other cities like Delhi and Pune informed Dr Brijesh Arora, Professor of Pediatric Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital.
Out of 48 registered blood banks in the city, only 12 have the licence and the infrastructure to conduct single donor platelet transfusion. Those interested in donating platelets can register in platelet registry in Federation of Bombay Blood Bank (FBBB)’s new website (http://fbbb.org.in/aphaeresis_donors.html). “The FBBB co-ordinator can reach out to the registered donor when the need for the particular blood group arises” says Rajadhyaksha.
Who can donate: The donor should be between 18-50 years of age and should weigh above 55 kgs. The donor is evaluated for eligibility for plateletpheresis and a blood sample is taken for blood grouping, complete blood counts (CBC) and mandatory tests for screening, transfusion transmitted infections.