One Pint, Three Lives?

We had our first blood drive on campus on Monday and as an avid proponent of blood donation, I wanted to seriously consider donating blood here, since obviously I can't do it back home.  So I did what makes sense in this day and age, I talked about it on Facebook.  This turned out well because one of my friends pointed me to this study that was done on blood donations here in Saudi Arabia.

While 55% of men had donated blood in the past, a mere 6% of women had done the same.  The two main reasons cited for the low donation levels among women included lack of information and difficulty in obtaining transportation.  Since women can't drive here, they must rely on a male relative for both permission and transportation, which from my understanding can be difficult to obtain.

This puts a huge amount of control outside the hands of traditional medicine. Regardless of the medical advancements made, insufficient blood supply seems like a major roadblock.

I would say the most surprising statistic I encountered was that only 15% of men and 25% of women would even accept a blood transfusion if they needed one.  Considering that 44% of those surveyed thought that blood in the blood bank was unsafe, the low acceptance of blood transfusions might not be that surprising.  I wonder how much of this distrust is a result of a bad experience, or simply a lack of accurate information about blood donations and transfusions.

Another statistic that surprised me was that 37% of men and 63% of women would only accept a blood transfusion if the donor was a relative.  This doesn't inherently surprise me, since there is a strong reliance on one’s own family here, however, I don’t see this as being truly feasible in emergency situations.  If an emergency blood transfusion is needed, I don’t think that waiting for a relative to supply it makes much medical sense.

One last statistic, this one completely unsurprising, was the gender preference for blood donations.  64% of men and 58% of women would prefer to receive blood from a donor of their same gender.  Not surprising in the least, but I feel this points to a huge gaping hole in the system.

What if for example, a woman needs an emergency transfusion, but because so few women donate blood, the only available blood is from a male donor?  (This assumes that blood donations are distinguishable by gender, and I’m not sure if this is true or not.)  Would a women or her family deny medical treatment if the preferred donor gender wasn’t available?  I hope not, but I have no earthly idea what the answer might be.  Perhaps not knowing the answer helps me sleep at night.

In the end, the clinic never got back to me about an appointment time, but perhaps another opportunity will arise in the future.