The dengue crisis

Recently I interviewed a volunteer of the Sankalp emergency wing, on the current blood shortage that has hit the state due to dengue. Read on-

Q. Tell me about the situation?

Volunteer- Dengue has hit really hard this year. We received thrice the normal number of blood requests this week. The number of emergency requests has alone crossed the average of 10 per day. Blood banks are running dry on platelets.

Q. Why do Dengue patients need blood?

Volunteer- Dengue is a viral fever, which leads to a sudden drop in the number of platelets in the patient’s body. Platelets are responsible for clotting of blood, and in its absence, the patient has to be kept in ICU. Platelets is one of the major three components of blood. The other two being red cells and plasma.

Q. How are the blood banks fighting the situation?

Volunteer- They are actually doing a good job. Since they are running short of platelets, they have been asking patient’s relatives and friends to donate. They are often asking for replacements. By replacement they mean, that blood is available in the blood bank itself, but since blood can’t be manufactured, and requirement is very high, they demand the patient’s friend or relative to donate to keep the stocks high. We Sankalp volunteers usually don’t encourage replacements, but considering the fact that it saves the blood processing time during emergencies, we are okay with it.

Q. How much time does it take to extract platelets from the blood donated?

Volunteer- Usually 3-4 hours.

Q. How much platelets is required for a dengue patient?

Volunteer- Depends on the platelet count. Platelet count in a normal person is above 1.5 lakhs. During dengue it usually comes down to below 40 thousand. Situations go terribly bad when the number goes below 20 thousand. Under such conditions, 4 to 6 bags of concentrated platelets might be required from different donors. Though, single donor platelet (SDP) is always preferred.

Q. What is SDP?

Volunteer- Single Donor Platelet apheresis is the process in which platelets are extracted from a single donor.

Q. Why do you prefer SDP?

Volunteer- Apheresis is a safer process, because it avoids the reactions that might occur due to possible minute mismatch among platelets of different donors transfused to the same patient. One unit of SDP is equivalent to 6-7 units of regular platelets. the only constraint with SDP is the price factor. One unit of SDP might cost as high as rupees 10,000.

Q. How has Sankalp helped in fighting dengue?

Volunteer- Sankalp runs an emergency helpline number- 9480044444, which networks across all the major blood banks in Karnataka. Whenever someone in need of blood calls up this number, he is directed to the nearest blood bank where the specific group or component is available. In case no blood bank has stocks, the blood request is forwarded to the Sankalp emergency wing. We volunteers of the emergency wing ensure that no one suffers due to shortage of blood. These days, we have been receiving multiple calls for platelets. Whenever required, we have gone ahead with donation, often SDP. Moreover, we have conducted many blood donation drives to ensure good stocks in the blood banks.

Q. What is the message you want to convey to our readers?

Volunteer- Donate blood! Don’t wait for a replacement request in your family to come up. The problem is not unavailability of donors. Most patients can afford to find a donor, if given a lot of time. But unfortunately, they have too little time to find a donor and get donations done. The best way to save them is make blood available like glucose. This is only possible if everyone comes up willingly to donate voluntarily. We have to bring about a blood revolution!

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