When the country is under a 21 day lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19, hundreds of Thalassemia patients in Haryana who face genetic blood disorder and are in urgent need of blood transfusion, are struggling with the blood shortage at dedicated government blood banks.
Thalassaemia is a genetic blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin. It results in the excessive destruction of red blood cells, which leads to anemia – a condition where the human body doesn't have adequate normal, healthy red blood cells.
Vipin Jain, 31, a Thalassemia patient by birth, hailing from Kath Mandi of Rohtak district, said that he is Thalassemic by birth and requires 2 unit of blood every week. As per norms, the government is committed to provide blood to such patients as per requirement and maintain arrangements of blood supply through blood donation drives.
Currently, about 500 members of Haryana Thalassemia Welfare Society belonging to various districts in the state are made to make rounds of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (Rohtak) blood bank, for blood transfusion. But sadly, they have to return dismayed and empty-handed due to a severe blood shortage.
"The authorities are citing blood shortage due to non-availability of blood donors during lockdown period and asking thalassemic patients to come with donors or wait till the shortage is met", Vipin Jain told The Logical Indian.
Kaushal Gupta,25, another thalassemic patient, said that travelling to PGIMS Rohtak blood donation center is no easy task during lockdown period as police barricades do not allow movement on roads.
"We have to convince them that we are thalassemic patients and going for blood transfusion. The problem come when we have to make several rounds of the blood bank unsuccessfully and cops questioning us every time we step out", Gupta added.
He said that it is a double whammy for them, as on one side, they are struggling with their bodies that are in need of blood and on the other side, they are tackling with a stringent administration.
Sachin Pruti, 30, said that earlier they used to get blood on time due to mass blood donation at universities, colleges and at other places but now all has been scrapped due to lockdown.
Since it is a need, Sachin said that they are forced to beg people to become their donor but due to lockdown and stigma around COVID-19, no one is willing to come to hospital. He said that his day is spent on phone making calls to people connected to non-government organizations or other contacts to come forward for blood donation.
A staff at blood bank in PGIMS Rohtak who requesting anonymity said that fewer staff is reporting to duty due to lockdown and they are flooded with requests from patients who need blood but could help only some of them.
Punit Sharma, state co-ordinator of Wakt De Rakt Sewa society, said that thalaseemic patients are the real sufferers in the lockdown period.
"We cannot blame entirely to blood banks as they do not get supplies due to ban on mass blood donation drive. The thalassemic patients start developing symptoms of weakness in body and other complications if their requirement is not met", Sharma told The Logical Indian.
Notably, The Haryana state government has a provision of providing free education up to Class X to children suffering from thalassaemia. The medicine being used for treatment of thalassaemia has been included in the Essential Drug List of Health Department and is being provided free of cost at all government hospitals.
On March 17, Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) had tweeted that to contain the spread of #COVID2019, mass gatherings have been cancelled. Keeping in line with the directive, IRCS NHQ has cancelled its scheduled blood donation camps, leading to an acute shortage of blood at IRCS NHQ blood bank.
Later, IRCS raised the concern of thalassemic patients by tweeting that children, regular recipients of fresh blood at their blood banks are the worst affected. They requested people to join hands and come forward to donate blood.
On being told about the blood shortage at government blood banks, Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij said that he has directed the competent authorities to make the blood available to those need it urgently.
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