Blood Mates: A Facebook Group, Arranging Blood For Emergencies In Kolkata

5 July 2017 1:27 PM GMT
Blood Mates: A Facebook Group, Arranging Blood For Emergencies In Kolkata
Image Courtesy: Blood Mates

What do you do when one of your near and dear ones is a cancer patient and is in dire need of blood? You try tirelessly to reach out to each contact you ever had, looking up for every possible source of blood? You might as well get the point of contact and let go a sigh of relief. But there are several among us, who have been in these shoes previously, only to return empty-handed, deep in despair and the entire world probably had seemed to crash down right in front the eyes.

Priyam Sengupta, a journalist from Kolkata, went through the same when A+ blood was required for his father, a cancer survivor patient. He approached his contacts, the Press Club and blood was arranged for, though he had his share of difficulties in the process in spite of having contacts. This was when the idea of creating an organised platform for blood donation occurred to him. It all started on the 5th October 2016 when an official Facebook Group for co-ordinating blood donation was created under the name Blood Mates. Based out of Kolkata, Blood mates initially was just a personal endeavour for Mr Sengupta, where he merely posted and shared about people across Kolkata who are in need of blood.

How does the group function?

Blood Mates heavily drew inspiration from the phrase coined by famous vocalist Rupam Islam, “Co-ordination is the primary weapon”. It grew as a group where Priyam was gradually joined by the likes of Soma Mukherjee, Rajib Chakrabarty, Aritra Sudan Sengupta, Shabnam Banerjee, Anupam Bhattacharjee and Arindam das. Voluntarily, these members began to work effortlessly to make availability of blood for the ones in need an easy task. It began just from the passion of doing something for society and as an act of giving back to society in a way. The group tirelessly keeps updating newer requirement of blood across the city and they help donors get in touch with the ones who are in need of blood. They also have a well-functional database which is managed by Aritra.

In the past eight months, they have catered to more than one hundred and fifty cases and none of the patients who has ever contacted Blood Mates has returned without the requisite unit of blood. Updates regarding requirements are posted on the group and are extensively shared across the social media platform. This helps in bridging the gap between the donors and the ones who are in need of blood, thereby eliminating the hassle of not getting blood at the right time. Tata Medical Center is one of those cancer treatment organisation who take recourse to this group while facing a dire crisis of blood for their patients. Do they charge? Absolutely not, it works entirely out of the idea to give back to the society and doing something for people in need. Suparna, a co-ordinator from Blood Mates said, “What makes us strive harder and put in the extra effort is the look of relief in the eyes of the kith and kin of the patients. Most of them often break down in tears. It is all due to the co-ordination, trust and hope which has helped this effort to gain a strong footing.”

Blood Mates members attending a meeting with Priyam Sengupta, the founder

Challenges and motivation

When The Logical Indian spoke to Priyam asking about the challenges that he has faced while working for such a cause, he said, “One of the major challenges have been cultural inhibition. There are people who refuse to accept or donate blood based on their religious differences. This problem often hinders the smooth working of the co-ordination. We try hard to make sure no-one returns empty handed” Another challenge, according to Priyam is, people often forget returning the good will they have received. Upon requesting patients to share notifications received from the Blood Mates on Facebook, often they fail to comply. He said, “The entire venture depends upon sharing the love and good will, the more you share, the more we can reach out to people and help people who are in need of blood. Blood Mates is incomplete without all the outdoor and indoor members, co-ordinators and people who share our posts extensively.”

Funding the initiative on the other hand is another critical issue, according the founder, Priyam sengupta. Hardly there are fund donors for this cause and the lack of funds has hindered in creating a stable bank of blood donors. Often they cannot fund the transportation cost of donors who come from far and wide to donate blood.

On asking, what is the motivation, that keeps him ready on his toes, as and when blood is needed he recounted an incident of Kulgen from Bhutan. Kulgen, a three year-old is a cancer patient who was admitted at the Tata Medical Center, undergoing Chemotherapy and she was in need of blood. Blood was arranged for and the little one’s treatment was taken care of.

Kulgen from Bhutan

Tanmay Chandra Ray from Bangladesh is a patient of Aplastic Anemia, and he is admitted at the Tata Medical centre awaiting a bone marrow transplant, and more than five units of O+ve blood was required. Shidatri Giri, a six-month-old tiny tot is suffering from kidney tumor. She needed B-Ve blood on an urgent basis and it has been arranged for only to restore her in a hail and hearty situation.

Shidatri Giri, a six-month-old suffering from kidney tumor

Priyam also recalled the case of Ushashree, a 24-year-old employee of Tech Mahindra, who was diagnosed with blood cancer. Priyam recalls, “Her will power to recover from the disease has been extremely inspiring. It is the good vibes which we get after dealing with patients that make us want to work harder and strive towards creating a better world, where none of the blood groups remain unavailable. Be it 60 year-old or even a 6 year-old, we want every patient to return happily, with a smile on their faces. ”

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