Published: 19th May 2021
These med students started a project where blood donors can connect with COVID patients and help directly
Riya Gupta launched Blood Donor Connect with 15 of her medical-student friends. We find out how they are bridging the blood gap in Chennai
A few weeks ago, Riya Gupta, like many Instagram influencers, started receiving requests for beds, oxygen and even blood. While she could help a lot of people get beds and oxygen, she was unsuccessful in helping them get blood. "I called several blood banks and most of them said that they were out of stock," recalls Riya. Deeply concerned, Riya initially thought of conducting a blood drive. "But I soon realised that many were reluctant to step out of their houses to donate blood due to the pandemic," she says.
What she did instead was create a Google Doc which had details of the people involved. "I thought of connecting them to the patients directly so that they would be more willing once they see how much the patient actually needed blood and that they had to potential to save their lives," says Riya.
According to the World Health Organisation, blood donation by 1% of the population is the minimum to meet any nation's requirement. India is estimated to have a 15% shortage in donations amounting to 1.9 million units of blood
Riya feels that it's the direct connection that prompts people to actually donate blood. "When you donate at a blood bank, you don't know who's utilising it. But here, the donors get to meet the patient and their family and witness their gratefulness first hand, which encourages them to donate and also share the experience with others," says Riya. She has now launched Blood Donor Connect, which seeks to connect blood donors directly to patients needing it. "Once I started helping, I realised I couldn't do it alone. A friend of mine volunteered to help and then more came on board," says Riya, who is a third-year medical student at Chettinad Academy Of Research And Education.
All the people associated with the initiative are 20-year-olds like Riya and medical students from various colleges across the city. "We ensured that there are people from various colleges so that we could tap into that college's network. This also helps with round-the-clock operations. As most of us have online classes, we can plan our shifts accordingly and someone is available at any given point in time," says Riya, adding, "We are usually not taken seriously and we are unable to work on the ground and this is our way to help during the pandemic." The project has managed to help about 150 patients requiring blood in three weeks of operations.
To register as a blood donor, plasma donor or a patient needing blood or plasma, all one has to do is head to the Linktree link on their Instagram page and register through Google Forms. "We wanted to make the process hassle-free and therefore we have appointed one moderator for every blood group. Once a request for blood comes, we assign them a donor from the nearest area. Once the registered donor has donated blood, their name is removed from the database so that they don't get repeated calls for donation. The requests and donors are verified by other moderators," explains Riya about the process.
The National Blood Transfusion Council states that COVID patients who have recovered or have been discharged from hospital or ended home isolation can donate blood at least 28 days later. It is the same for asymptomatic and mildly and very mildly symptomatic patients as well
She and her team also ensure that the donor isn't troubled in case they have to travel a bit. They arrange for an e-pass and also transport in case they have to travel for longer distances. "Recently, someone had to go to Tiruchy to donate blood for a rare blood group and few others had to go to Puducherry from Chennai. We had to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible," says Riya. Currently, they are only able to serve Chennai and surrounding areas. "The requests are mostly for blood as plasma therapy is not being widely practiced in Tamil Nadu. The few requests we had received have been resolved," says Riya when asked about requests for plasma donation. With endorsements from various celebrities like Suresh Raina, Riya says that the initiative has caused a sort of chain reaction with more people encouraging others to donate.