Saving lives, one bag at a time: For KGS alumni and parents, donating blood is part of the experience

Published: February 28, 2014
A student of the Karachi Grammar School playing on his mobile phone while donating blood at the school’s blood donation camp on Thursday. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

A student of the Karachi Grammar School playing on his mobile phone while donating blood at the school’s blood donation camp on Thursday. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Twenty-one years after its inception, the Karachi Grammar School [KGS] Lifeline has become an institution in itself.

“According to the Hussaini Blood Bank, KGS Lifeline is the largest donor group in South East Asia in terms of blood donated and donors. One third of our donors are students,” claimed Romina Mirza, an organiser at the blood donation camp on Thursday.

“There are some people here who were nursery students when Lifeline began and now, they are volunteering and donating blood. The whole thing has really come full circle,” said Rana Iqbal Hassan, one of the founders of the KGS Lifeline. Zara, daughter of another founding member of KGS Lifeline, has seen the project grow before her eyes. “I was in A’ Levels when I donated blood for the first time. I was actually afraid of needles, but I just looked the other way and got on with it,” she said. “I think it [KGS Lifeline] has become part of the KGS experience.”

Azhar Nasir, who has been a volunteer for the past eight years, said that the whole event is parent-driven but the students of KGS also play a big role in collecting donor pledges.

“Volunteers go and speak to the kids in their classrooms, making them aware from a young age of how important the whole process is. In this way, they also have the opportunity to ask questions about donating blood,” he said. “We also have a house competition among the houses at the school. We have big boards outside and every time someone comes to donate we ask which house their child is from. Each donation gets a paper on their board and at the end of the event we tabulate the house winner.”

 photo DrJaveriaQureshi_zpsfd37df02.jpg

To encourage blood donation, the school has a number of other incentives. “For each donation, the donor gets a pen and a band to wear on their wrists. The students always wear the bands that their parents earned to school the next day,” said Mirza told The Express Tribune.

Dr Javeria Qureshi, a former student of KGS, has been a donor since her time in A’ Levels. “It’s addictive. As children we would see people donating and realised that it is understandable and acceptable,” she said.

This blood collected this year will be donated to the Aga Khan Hospital as well as the Indus Hospital. Healthy donors over the age of 17 donate a 450ml bag of blood, and last year Lifeline was able to collect 636 bags.

“We usually alternate between the Aga Khan and Hussaini Blood Bank, but this year we have both the Aga Khan and Indus Hospital here. We were very impressed by Indus and the way they maintained the cold chain, taking the blood from KGS to their blood bank and then on to patients. However, they only had 15 beds available,” explained Hassan.

Dr Uzma, administrator of the Indus Hospital’s Blood Center, said that they used a centralised blood banking system, the first of its kind in Pakistan. The software is used by filling in a detailed universal donor questionnaire and then by scanning a bar code that is printed on the blood bags and test tubes, the information can be accessed by the hospital. “This helps with proper donor identification,” she said. “Hospitals can order blood online as well using this system.”

She estimated that they would collect around 250 bags of blood, which would then be transported in temperature-controlled boxes to the hospital.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2014. 

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