She is no vampire, but in those critical hours drifting between life and death, Porntana Tansawangkul's only salvation was a blood transfusion that needed to be administered right away _ it was just as vital to her survival as it would be to a vampire.
"Down with dengue haemorrhagic fever, the blood loss was so severe I was in a coma and lapsed into a shock-like state," recalled Porntana, a bank officer, of her ordeal. She had to wait eight hours before help arrived.
The wait was tormenting but at the end of it six units of type-O blood from donors was transfused into Porntana's body and she survived to tell this story.
"Made to wait in this life-threatening condition for so long, I and my family realised that blood is extremely hard to find and therefore it is so valuable."
The 37-year-old is a regular blood donor now. She donates the red fluid every three months, and she's been doing it for more than a decade.
"Before, I never donated blood and never saw the necessity of doing it. But looking back to the day I was in desperate need of blood, and now that I am back in good health, I just want to give blood and help others," said Porntana.
Last month, the country's supply of donated blood at the Thai Red Cross Society's National Blood Centre encountered a serious threat as the stock shrunk drastically, affecting the centre's ability to respond to requests for blood from hospitals countrywide.
According to the director of the National Blood Centre Dr Soisaang Phikulsod, in normal situations, every day a number of public and private healthcare providers rush to the centre early to register and receive units of donated blood for their patients, who are in critical condition. And the centre usually allocates approximately 1,500 to 1,600 units of blood to registered hospitals, which means the centre also needs to have at least as many donors every day in order to meet the demand.
But during the past month, the number of blood donors suddenly dropped due to unknown reasons. And although the demand was the same, the fewer number of donors simply failed to create sufficient supply.
"The national blood supply shortage is a matter of life and death," commented Dr Soisaang. "The situation would have a very significant impact on people's lives because the longer critical patients have to wait, the greater the risk to their health and lives."
Speaking of the 1,600 units of blood the National Blood Centre has to distribute to hospitals around the country on a daily basis, Dr Soisaang said it is crucial the centre maintain a consistent number of blood donors each day to meet demand which is basically constant. Prior to the blood supply crisis, the centre generally welcomed more than 1,600 donors per day, enabling it to keep a surplus in stock for emergency use.
"In normal circumstances, the centre tries to keep the number of blood units in storage to not below 3,000," added the director. "But since early last month, we were forced to take out blood units from our stock because the number of donors was down to only 1,200 to 1,300 per day. And because we used so much from our storage, it turns out in the end we only have about a thousand units of blood left in stock,"
And not only is the blood supply shortage a threat to patients' lives. At the same time, it has a financial impact on patients and the hospitals alike. Waiting for donated blood, patients have no choice but to pay more for hospitalisation and related medical expenses while healthcare providers have to keep allocating medical as well as human resources to the sick.
And when patients need to stay in hospital longer, it affects their job as well as their family responsibilities.
According to Dr Soisaang, a large number of people still have misunderstandings regarding blood donation, believing that donating too much blood can potentially weaken the donor's physical health. But the truth is regular blood donation is good not just for the body but also for the mind.
Blood donation is generally harmless to health if donors are in a physically good state, added the director. Each day, approximately 20cc of blood expires naturally while the body regenerates a corresponding amount on a daily basis.
During donation, an average of approximately 350 to 450cc of blood is extracted from a person. After blood is drawn from the body, the bone marrow comes into play.
"Regular blood donation is like allowing your bone marrow to have a regular workout," explained Dr Soisaang. "Because when the body loses 350cc of blood, the bone marrow will help produce new blood cells to replace the loss so as to maintain the normal blood volume. So regularly donating blood means spurring the bone marrow from time to time to be active.
"If we compare an elderly person who is a frequent blood donor with another one who never donates it, we will see that the former has healthier bone marrow while the latter is likely to develop aplastic anaemia or a condition when bone marrow fails to produce new blood cells."
The blood donation experience, for many, is inspiring too. After giving blood once, a number of donors feel like they are able to overcome their fear and many of them, said the director, associate blood donation with inner pride.
Even though the situation at the centre has somewhat recovered, Dr Soisaang still encourages the public to donate blood regularly. The director does not want people to just consider blood donation as a trend or only associate it with some special public occasion because patients who are in desperate need of blood cannot afford to wait.
"Do not make a blood donation only to help deal with the blood supply crisis or donate blood only on special public occasions," said Dr Soisaang. "Rather, blood donation should be made a habit. When the demand is constant, it is important to create constant supply too.
"And remember, each time you donate blood, you help save more than one life. You help children return to their family or help send a mum or dad back to live with their children.
"You help save the lives of someone's grandparents so they can go back to their family. This is how you help the entire family. It is indeed something you can be proud of."
About the author
- Writer: Arusa Pisuthipan