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Author: Wairimu Wangu

Donating Blood Never Gets Old

It’s Wednesday afternoon and members of staff at Nairobi RBTC have moved to the gazebo area to have lunch as they catch up on each other’s welfare. A few minutes into lunch, a donor is received at the reception desk and escorted to the donor clinic. This donor is unlike any other donor the facility has received since the start of the year- its 64-year-old Mzee Richard Kang’ethe; a committed and selfless donor who has made it his ritual to visit the blood bank any time he’s in Nairobi. So, who is Richard Kang’ethe?

Mr. Kang’ethe is a farmer by profession and resides in his farm house in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua county. He became a regular blood donor after he made his first donation in 1972 while studying at Pumwani Secondary school. Today was Richard’s final donation as he turns 65 in a month’s time. He talks to me about how his interest in donating blood peaked after a visit to his school by a team of blood donation workers. “The idea of donating blood for others was still at its infancy stages in the country as most people were not well aware of the practice. But ever since my first donation, I’ve adhered to making at least two donations in a year!” He says as he keenly fills his consent form.  Richard’s selfless commitment to saving lives has turned him into a frequent visitor at the blood bank, journeying between Nairobi and Nakuru RBTCs to give his life-saving unit of blood. This explains the fervor with which he was received with by the staff at Nairobi RBTC as soon as he walked in.

‘We were wondering where you have been, it’s been a while since we last saw you!’ One of the nurses says as she watches Mr Kang’ethe filling his consent form. It is then that he discloses that he was in Nairobi to study for his accounting exams at the American Embassy library; a revelation that takes us all by surprise after understanding just how serious he is about educating himself further, even at his age.

Mzee Richard Kang’ethe filling his blood donor consent form before donating blood at the walk-in donor clinic in RBTC Nairobi.

He finishes filling his donor consent form and I escort him into the donor clinic where I leave him for a one-on-one conversation with the nurse. He soon walks out to the donation area after getting the go-ahead to donate. I’m amazed by his altruistic character even as we digressed into talking about the delayed rains and how that has affected his farming activities. I ask him what keeps him motivated to give blood; his response was quite simple and profound at the same time: “Saving lives is a noble course. It’s our brothers and sisters who need this blood, so why not give if you can?”

Mzee Richard Kang’ethe getting his blood pressure and HB level checked before he is given the go-ahead to donate blood.
Mzee Richard donates blood at Nairobi RBTC

He fills up his blood bag in a surprisingly short time after which he is served with his refreshments and a branded key-chain. Other members of staff walk in to bid him farewell and to thank him for the years he has been a selfless life saver.

Every donor plays a critical role in ensuring that our country becomes blood sufficient, without voluntary donations, we cannot meet the demands from hospitals. Every donation makes a real difference and it is only by joining hands that we can be able to save even more lives together. Blood donors are lifesavers.

You can join Richard and others like him in the journey towards making Kenya a blood sufficient country by registering to donate blood on the NBTS website. Follow this link to register as a donor: https://nbtskenya.or.ke/register-as-a-donor/

Keeping Blood Safe

Processing of donated blood

After donation, blood is mechanically separated into various components

The most common components are Packed Red cells components; Platelets concentrates, Fresh Frozen Plasma, and Cryoprecipitate

These components are used in treatment of different blood disorders

Storage of blood and blood components

Whole blood (unseparated) is stored refrigerated at +2 0 C to + 60 C for up to 35 days

Platelet concentrates are stored at +20 0 C + 240 C for up to 5 days with constant agitation

Fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate are stored frozen at -20 0 C to -24 0 C for up to 3 months, -250 C to -29 0 C for up to 6 months, -30 0 C to -39 0 C for 12 months; -40 0 C to -64 0 C for 24 months and -65 0 C and below for 7 years or longer.

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