Struggle for one drop of blood

Being born with blood rel­­a­­ted genetic disorder is a curse in our country. More so beca­use of the high cost of treatment, medication compounded with straitened financial conditions of the patients.

In December 2013, when the parents of an eight-year-old thalassaemic boy wrote to Delhi High Court see­king its intervention to get fr­ee blood transfusion treatme­nt and bone marrow tran­­­s­­­plant, the problem of unavailability of free-of-cost blood to tho­se requiring repeated blo­od transfusions came into notice.

As per the National AIDS Control Organisation guidelines, those suffering from thalassaemia, haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia and any other blood-related ailment are authorised to get blood free of cost from all blood banks. But is it actually being followed?

Indira Venkaraman, secretary Haemophilia Federation India, says, private blood banks are obviously charging money from the patients and it is really expensive. |

“However, patients who are registered with our society are being provided blood at subsidised rates. The main cost is of transfusion only.”

Notably, the society which is run and sustained by public donation, has a tie-up with Rotary Blood Bank and Red Cro­ss Society for blood supply.

Talking about its collaboration with the Rotary Club, she says, “If Rotary is selling the blood to us at Rs 1,200 then we are providing it at a subsi­dised rate of Rs 600 to the patients registered with us which is inclusive of the transfusion cost. Also, patients get free treatment. No consultation fee is being charged.”

According to her, government hospitals are also supportive of the cause. “They are providing blood to the patients who require repeated transfusion.

There are three hospitals where blood has to be distributed to haemophilic patients free of costs.

LNJP Hospital has been supportive of the cause whereas in the other two hospitals, kin of the pati­e­nts are being asked to pay for blood units.

Even to get blood from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, patients have to take a donor along with them.”

On the other hand preside­nt of the society, Dr VK Garg, washed his hands of the issue by saying, “I just treat haemo­philia patients.”

Given that the treatment of haem­ophilia depends upon blood and blood components, the availability etc the doctor’s evasivenesswas inexplicable.

Though haemophiliacs need blood at the time of inj­ury or surgery as their body is genetically unable to facilitate blood clotting, patients of thalassaemia, on the other hand, require blood transfusion every 20 days.

“Thalassaemic patients require blood transfusion every month, as their bo­dy cannot make haemoglobin which is an essential part of the blood,” says Monisha Gogoi, project manager at the National Thalassaemia Welfare Society.

“There are more than 3,000 children in the City who are thalassaemic and in every government hospitals there are thalassaemic wards which cater to these kids.”

The society helps the patie­nts by organising blood cam­ps, collecting the blood and then giving it to government blood banks that, after proces­s­ing and different tests, prov­ide it to the needy.

When ask­ed about the private blood banks, she clearly says, “They don’t give the blood for free. Patient take along with them a donor, as well pay for the
blo­od or the required comp­­o­nent. Even the price is also steep.”

Enquiring about the cost at which blood is made available to these patients, Metrolife spoke to Dr RN Makroo, Director, Transfusion Medicine, Apollo Hospital.

“We have 50 to 60 thalassaemic patients regi­stered with us. We don’t ask them to bring donors alo­ng with them,” he says.

Ask him specifically about the amount charged for one transfusion, Dr Makroo tries to skirt from the issue, “I don’t remember,” is his straight-fa­ced reply.

“People come to the hospital as per their affordab­ility. Some people prefer going to government hospitals, so­me to private hospitals whi­le there are people who go
ab­r­­oad for the treatment,” he says.

Undoubtedly a practical statement, but cruel and insensitive to those whose every minute of life is dependent upon donated blood.

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