How long should we stand and watch precious blood getting wasted?

One of our regular blood donors called us on 29th May, 2015, asking if there is any blood unit of Bombay blood group available in Bangalore. A child in one of the reputed heart hospital was in need of 3 units of Bombay blood group to undergo a heart surgery. Fortunately few days back we had a Bombay blood group request from other another reputed heart hospital where we got 2 units of Bombay negative blood group donated. Those 2 units were still on self as patients did not require blood during surgery or post surgery. We informed the hospital where the baby was admitted about the availability of units.

The blood bank officer told us that he will confirm with the surgeons and get back to us. We waited for a day but there was no response from the blood bank. When we followed up we were told that they are getting 2 units donated and the two units which were already available on shelves will be used as backup. We tried to convince the doctors, but they kept insisting on donation of two fresh units. We were also told that they have got couple of donors who will be coming to donate.

When we followed up with the blood bank next day we were informed that they have collected 2 units and surgery is happening the same day. The donors who donated for the patient were regular blood donors who usually donate every 3-4 months. After a couple of days we received an information about availability of one unit Bombay blood group in the same hospital from website. When we followed with the blood bank they told us that both the units were used and there is no other unit available with them. However, the available unit kept reflecting on the website again the next day. The 2 units collected earlier, available throughout the process, expired in a few days. We are not aware about the end consequence of units donated for the baby’s surgery.

This is not the first time we have experienced such a scenario. In the same month (June 2015) 2 other Bombay Blood Group requests from 2 different States asked for Fresh blood units. It doesn't end with just the fresh units, they also insist on donors donating in their blood bank and refuse to collect units from any other blood bank.

Such events raise multiple questions:

  • Shouldn't surgeons order blood units rationally especially when it’s a rare group?
  • Is it ethical to get Bombay Blood group donated when units are available in the city? Just because donors are available to donate should we get rare units donated?
  • In case units are unused isn’t it the blood bank’s responsibility to inform others who might be able to use it?
  • Often in the past it has so happened that multiple requests have come and there are no donor's eligible. Won't it be good if the donor's also proactively ensured that the units available on the shelf get used first?

We at Sankalp, work very hard to ensure bombay blood units are used rationally and not wasted. We get units airlifted to other cities, we have procured expensive temperature controlled boxes just to ensure units can be sent to long distances without getting spoilt. We try and use all means just to ensure that patients are helped on time and units are used rationally. However, there are certain hospitals and blood banks who refuse to look at the larger need and situation. What is rare must be used judiciously - but for some institutions, selfish motives and high headedness takes precedence.

It's disappointing that a precious resource was wasted. It's disappointing that the systems which could have prevented the same were deliberately ignored.

We appeal to the hospitals to commit to the rational utilisation of rare blood groups. We appeal to donors of rare groups to do their due diligence before they donate. Blood is extremely precious, and of all people, those associated with Bombay group - donors, blood bankers and surgeons - should remember that. As we continue our struggle to make sure no one suffers due to shortage of blood, there is still a long way to go.

(Article also posted @