Young members of ‘rare blood clubs’ in Hanoi and northern localities are doing their best to make sure hospital patients with uncommon blood types have the precious liquid they need to survive.
Blood banks across Vietnam seem constantly low on stock of rare blood types.
Some young people have banded together to create an emergency response group capable of meeting the needs of patients with rare blood types who require life-saving transfusions.
Some blood types are present in less than one in every 1,000 people.
This means that patients with these blood types who are in need of life-saving blood often find themselves in a race against the clock to find a donor.
This has begun to change over the past several years as ‘rare blood clubs’ begin to grow in popularity across northern Vietnam.
Life-saving blood banks
Nguyen Thi Nham, a resident of Thanh Hoa Province, remembers receiving a call seven years ago from a hospital in dire need of her blood.
|Nguyen Thi Nham, from Thanh Hoa Province in north-central Vietnam, has donated blood 11 times. Photo: N. Nguyen / Tuoi Tre|
The patient in need had Rh (D) negative blood, a type found in just 0.1 percent of the Vietnamese population.
With such a low prevalence of Rh (D) negative blood in the population, it was no surprise that the hospital had none in its store.
Nham rushed to the hospital right after hanging up the phone, well aware that she had very little time to spare.
“The patient was in need of blood so I knew I had to help,” she shared.
Nham viewed the incident as a call to action, prompting her to join several clubs set up by people with less common blood types in order to help those in need.
Now, at 28 years old, she has donated blood 11 times, mostly in emergency cases, to save patients in a critical condition.
“I don’t know who the recipients are, all I know is that they are carrying the same blood type as mine,” she said.
While Nham has always been eager to help people with her blood type, those around her did not always offer their support.
Her parents, for instance, were worried that donating blood might take a toll on her health.
Over time, however, she won their support by proving that donating blood kept her both physically and mentally upbeat.
“I’m happy that my blood can save someone’s life,” Nham said.
Nham’s pride is echoed by 31-year-old Nguyen Luong Hieu, a resident of Hoai Duc District in Hanoi.
Hieu also has a Rh (D) negative blood type and has donated blood 19 times.
He shared that those with rare blood in their veins are now on standby as ‘rare blood banks,’ on call and ready to help out in case of emergency.
In a particular instance, Hieu and three other members of a local rare blood club braved torrential rains to make it to the hospital in time for a transfusion.
“All we knew then was that there were patients in life-threatening conditions and that their families could not find a suitable, willing donor,” Hieu shared.
|Members of a Hanoi-based rare blood club are seen in this supplied photo.|
Pham Quoc Cuong, a 23-year-old staffer at the 108 Military Central Hospital in the capital, is also a member of a rare blood club.
Cuong has type B negative, which makes up less than two percent of the population, according to www.redcrossblood.org.
Despite his young age, he has taken part in 14 blood donations and is currently preparing for the 15th time.
Like Nham’s parents, Cuong’s family fiercely rejected the idea out of fear it would affect his health, forcing the young man to give blood behind his family’s back.
It was only after he donated blood for the 11th time that his mother found out about his deeds.
Cuong eventually persuaded his parents to give him their blessing by explaining the pros and cons of blood donation, as well as describing his own experiences.
“I was scared at first, but got addicted to it later on,” he shared.
“I’ve experienced improvement in my immune system and overall health and well-being.
"Most importantly, we’re doing our part to help give others a new life.”
Cuong is active in encouraging others to become blood donors.
Many young rare blood donors, including Nham, are organ donors as well – a choice they see as a means to save lives even after death.
“Becoming a rare blood and organ donor is what makes me most happy,” Nham said.