The Bombay group saga

Today is a day we Sankalp volunteers of the emergency wing will never forget! Exactly one year ago, on 3rd march, 2009, our heart had skipped several beats…

1st March, 2009- It was a fine Sunday evening, to be spent in the college canteen catching up on the latest gossip, over tea. It was then, that an engineering student, a volunteer of the Sankalp emergency wing received a call. She listened with rapt attention and sprang into action.

A pregnant woman; expected to deliver anytime soon; was in urgent need of blood. The patient’s name was Sapna and she was admitted in a government hospital. Such calls were not unusual for this volunteer, but, the requirement in this case was. Sapna needed blood of the Bombay group– a blood group so rare that you would find only one person of this blood group in 17,000! The search for a donor of this group does not remain city specific and in most cases expands into a nation-wide hunt. This group is often mistaken as O+ if not tested properly and this makes matters worse. So, in a country where most people don’t know their blood groups, and Bombay group is unheard of; even by doctors; a Sankalp volunteer took up the challenge of fulfilling the requirement of this rare request. A spark of confidence crossed her face. “I have to do this!” she sighed.

Within 1 hour, two volunteers were in the hospital, discussing the situation with her doctor, and simultaneously monitoring the health care facilities. Sapna’s hemoglobin level was at 4 (the normal level being 12.5). The doctor clearly said that if she delivered before her hb level rose to 8, it would be difficult to save either the mother or the baby. He suggested that she be transferred to a better and more equipped hospital. But Sapna’s husband, a daily wage worker could not afford it. A hospital worker had promised them the required blood and had charged them a lump sum. He had not contacted them since! Sapna’s husband was now penniless. The two volunteers took up the responsibility of shifting her to a better hospital and doing all the needful to ensure that she had a safe delivery.

Early next morning, one other volunteer was in negotiation with Dr. Aakash, a social worker at one of the best hospitals in Bangalore, requesting him to help provide free treatment for Sapna. After some robust discussion, he obliged. The next hurdle was the transportation of the patient. Ambulance was unaffordable. Free ambulance services of Bangalore do not cater to inter-hospital transfers. So finally, with the doctor’s permission, the volunteers brought her in an auto. While the doctors gave her a thorough checkup, the volunteers decided to call her parents. To their utter surprise; her family turned a deaf ear to their pleas; citing personal reasons! Apparently Sapna had married against her parents’ will and her family was now settling scores! After Sapna’s checkup, the doctors declared that she would deliver anytime now. The volunteers had to find as many units of Bombay group blood as they could, and in time to help mother and child. They set out in search of donors. The hunt had begun.

The chief of a reputed blood bank, Dr. Somesh lent a helping hand. He used his contacts, to rope in more help. 6 volunteers stormed the entire city and managed to find 1 eligible, willing donor- Shridhar. Finally, one unit of blood was transferred to the patient. Her hb level rose to 5- still far from safe. Nightfall halted their search and the volunteers spent a sleepless night, with no relief in sight.

The next day, search proceeded on a war footing. Age old databases were pulled up from blood banks and volunteers travelled to every nook and corner of the city to meet these donors. They succeeded in finding one more donor- Harsh. 15 minutes after this blood was transfused to her, she delivered! Both mother and baby were safe! The parents’ happiness knew no bounds! The volunteers were overjoyed. Their sincere and persistent effort had paid off. “After seeing the baby, I had tears in my eyes and I felt like there is no end to happiness. We sat in hospital floor watching the sky, that moment was so awesome. That night we finally ate- infact, we partied! I was smiling for atleast 2 days remembering the baby”, recalls a volunteer… It was exactly a year back- 3rd March, 2009.

About 10 months after this incident a volunteer again got a request for blood of Bombay group. For a handful of volunteers who cater to more than 800 blood requests every year, 10 months meant lots of challenges, many dead ends- each leading to newly chalked out paths, whole new learning experiences. Facing these challenges; strewn on their path– each one testing their skills and patience in new ways; brought lots of joy to these 6-7 volunteers of the Sankalp Emergency wing. And this time they were better prepared to cater to the patient. The volunteers started calling donors form the database they had built up in these 10 months. Unfortunately, no one was available.

One of the volunteers was suddenly reminded of Sapna. She called her and explained the situation. Sapna was more than happy to donate but wasn’t sure of her eligibility. After thorough checkup at the blood bank, she was declared eligible. She was happy to save someone’s life because someone had once saved hers. She exclaimed in Kannada- “Sankalp people are more important to me than my family!” Most volunteers didn’t understand Kannada but could read from the smile on her face. Finally, Sapna’s blood was transfused to the patient and her operation was successful.

The next day, the volunteers of Sanklap emergency wing were seen going somewhere. With little twinkles, and much bigger dreams in their eyes- a smile writ large on their faces. They were literally jumping on the road while they walked, and smiled- the charm of which can only be felt…

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One response to “The Bombay group saga

  1. really touching…

    very happy for Sapna, Sankalp and everything else 🙂

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