In a crisis or emergency, the natural human response is “What can I do, How can I help,” This year’s World Blood Donor Day (June 14) campaign slogan has the answer: “Give blood. Give now. Give often.”
The campaign focuses on blood donations in emergencies and encourages people not to wait until disaster strikes to donate.
Caymanian Virginia Castillo can attest to this message. Subsequent to being a blood donor since 1997, Ms. Castillo was diagnosed with cancer. She has always believed that donating blood was an act of kindness every human being in good health should do for others. “Blood is a gift you can give back. It does not cost you anything and does not negatively affect your own health,” she said.
Ms. Castillo donated three times a year on average and said her experiences have always been pleasant. “The blood bank staff honours your time, so you’re in and out quickly,” she said.
Prior to being diagnosed in 2016 with Serous Peritoneal Carcinoma, cancer of the cells lining the abdominal cavity, Ms. Castillo never expected to be a blood transfusion recipient. Despite her situation, she said: “It was a positive experience being a donor for so many years and I am glad I paid it forward. I now depend on the generosity of other blood donors who, like myself, see the importance it plays in the lives of so many,” she added.
Ms Castillo hopes her story will inspire others to become donors. “People never know when they, or a loved one, may need a blood transfusion,” she remarked.
Transfusions of blood and blood products help to save millions of lives every year, including during emergencies such as conflicts, natural disasters and childbirth. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and achieve a higher quality of life. It is also used to support complex medical and surgical procedures.
In its mission to achieve its goal of 500 new registered donors by the end of 2017, the Cayman Islands Blood Bank has hosted many successful blood drives with companies such as Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, CIBC FirstCaribbean, DMS, KPMG and the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman and many others.
It has also received constant support from its partners Generali Worldwide Cayman and the Rotary and Rotaract clubs of the Cayman Islands. These events and organisations have significantly increased the number of new donors.
Judith Clarke, laboratory manager said: “We set an ambitious target of 500 new donors for the year 2017. Presently, we can celebrate 375 new donors from across our responsive community of corporate stakeholders, guest workers, young people, service clubs, churches and civil servants.”
She added: “Our national Blood Bank cannot thank our donors enough for all the lives that have been saved and for helping to prepare for the unforeseen. We look forward to meeting our life saving target long before the end of the year.
“By that time we will have met, or even surpassed the Pan American Health Organization’s ideal for us to collect blood representing a 2 percent minimum of the population. Thank you Cayman.”
To register to become a blood donor or volunteer to collaborate with the Blood Bank, please visit bloodbank.ky or call 244 2674.
Minister for Health, Dwayne Seymour, said: “As we mark World Blood Donor Day on June 14, I take this opportunity to remind everybody in the Cayman Islands about the importance of giving blood.”
He said that it cannot be taken for granted that there will always be blood available if you, or a loved one, need it for routine surgery or an emergency.
Mr. Seymour said: “It is up to all of us to make sure that the blood bank located at the Health Services Authority has a constant and plentiful supply of blood.
“While people may think of blood as needed primarily in the aftermath of accidents or surgery, it is also essential to have on-hand in case of wounds during natural disasters such as hurricanes, and has a life-saving role in maternal and perinatal care.
“It can also help patients with life-threatening conditions to live longer, with a higher quality of life.”
He added that as newly appointed Minister for Health, he encourages everyone to support blood donor registration drives.
“We held a very successful drive on Tuesday, June 13, at the Government Administration Building, offering civil servants a convenient opportunity to sign up to give blood,
“I hope that other public and private sector workplaces will follow suit and hold similar registration drives for their employees.
“The good news is that it is very easy to donate blood and it only takes a short time. After completing the preliminary paperwork you will be in and out of the blood bank at Cayman Islands Hospital in approximately 20 minutes.
“There is no human-made or natural replacement for blood, so donors are extremely important to the well-being of our country.
Mr. Seymour concluded by saying: “It is a small and easy step to take, but an enormous help to our community.”