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The 50-year-old donor who’s always giving blood

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At 50 years of age, Mr Harrison Kiarie has donated blood 31 times and does not plan on stopping anytime soon. The insurance sales executive first donated blood in February 1986 while studying at Kirangari High School in Kiambu County and turned it into a habit.

“I was very anxious before I donated my blood as I had never seen my blood in a plastic bag, but the Red Cross crew were very reassuring and I got through the whole process,” he told Business Today in an interview.

However, seeing the deoxygenated blood which is dark red in colour shocked him as he expected to see the plastic bag painted red. In 2010, Mr Kiarie pledged to be a regular donor , giving out blood four times in a year as per the set health standards.

Since then, nine years down the line, he has kept his word and visits blood donation centres. “If I happen to pass by tents set up by the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service or Red Cross, I sign up and donate my blood. It is always a pleasure,” he adds.

{ Read: DStv partners with Red Cross to conduct Game of Thrones blood drive }

His blood type, B+ (positive) is important in maintaining the blood supply and critical in saving the lives of patients in the community. The frequent visits to blood centres in Nakuru County has made him a popular face among the staff who call on him whenever there’s a blood shortage or passing around.

“I have been contacted severally to donate blood. I recall one incident where a patient in Laikipia needed blood transfusion and I was asked to visit the blood centre to donate. Since I was in the period where I could donate blood I hurriedly did so,” says Mr Kiarie.

The reality that he has saved many lives, whom he may never meet in life, through blood transfusion gives him satisfaction.

Mr Kiarie has further instilled the importance of blood donating into his children who are on the way to follow their father footsteps. “They are very eager since we keep having this conversation with them and once they are eligible to start. I am sure they will become regular donors,” he chuckles.

{ See Also: ‘Bleeding for the Throne’ Game of Thrones blood donation campaign kicks off }

However, the regular blood donor is not impressed by procedures set in the country in blood transfusion across health centres. “It is my appeal to the government to ensure that donating blood is a culture that is nurtured among the young generation. This way we can ensure that the blood bank does not run low on the supply,” says Mr Kiarie.

He further urges the KNBTS and Red Cross to stop giving people sodas after donating blood since they are not healthy drinks. “The Ministry of Health (MoH) should digitize the records of blood donors to ensure that in case a blood donor is admitted for a blood transfusion he/she gets the blood without much hustle. This will encourage many people and their families to donate blood when they are fit,” adds Mr Kiarie.

The cheerful insurance salesperson urges the young and the old to donate blood as many times as they can since blood is a vital fluid in the health of people.

“Don’t be afraid to go donate blood. There is no pain, just a little pinch of the needle and the staff are always very friendly, reassuring and they will answer all your questions politely. Additionally, you will feel good that your blood is going to help a sick person somewhere,” he says.

{ Read: Donating blood to demonstrate love }

World Blood Donor Day is celebrated across the globe on 14th June every year to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.

Every 10 minutes about seven Kenyans need blood with over 200,000 recipients yearly. Per annum 164,275 pints of blood is collected country wide and over 500,000 blood needed for transfusion.

With 27 blood donation centres across the country, blood group O+, which is universal donor is received more with blood group AB- being the rarest.

“Blood is an important resource, both for planned treatments and urgent interventions. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with a higher quality of life, and supports complex medical and surgical procedures,” states World Health Organisation (WHO).

“A blood service that gives patients access to safe blood and blood products in sufficient quantity is a key component of an effective health system. Ensuring safe and sufficient blood supplies requires the development of a nationally coordinated blood transfusion service based on voluntary non-remunerated blood donations,” adds WHO.

Many countries across the globe blood services face the challenge of making sufficient blood available, while also ensuring its quality and safety.

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Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde is reporter with Business Today. Email: [email protected]
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