Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
Video Producer: Saradha Natarajan, Aastha Gulati
As the second wave of COVID ravaged the country, there was a growing need for blood donors in my hometown, Chennai. I have been using Instagram to talk about health and wellness, and in April, a lot of people reached out to me to amplify their requests for oxygen, hospital beds, and blood. I realised that along with the former, the latter was in shortage too.
I started asking around and tried to find donors that I knew and was connecting them to patients. Unfortunately, several blood banks reported shortages. Given the number of requests, I thought it was best to connect donors with patients directly. My friends offered to help, and this is how we started Blood Donor Connect.
Instagram, WhatsApp, and for cases where a rare blood type is required, we have used social media platforms and dating apps to spread the word and post requests for blood donors. We have tried to make the process as simple as possible.
We started off by creating a Google Form, which donors or patients could fill. A Linktree website was also set up to make the process quicker. After we get a response, the patient (or donor) then gets a call from one of our volunteers. Then, we finally connect the patient with a donor at the nearest location, depending upon willingness and availability. Upon receiving this confirmation, we exchange the contact details of the attendee and the donor.
Why we are different from a blood bank? Varsha, a teammate, explains:
“A lot of donors are available through various websites and apps, but upon contacting them we realised that a lot of them were out of town because of the lockdown, some were recently vaccinated and some had tested positive for COVID. This makes it hard to find donors. We are therefore trying to create a curated list of donors who are readily available to donate blood.”
We are all students aged 20 or 21 years. While some of us are aspiring doctors, few are engineers. We all juggle online classes and exams, along with outreach work where we coordinate via calls and Zoom meetings. We consider this a small contribution to saving lives.
Moreover, as most donors are scared to go to hospitals or step out of their houses amid a pandemic, we have lost a few patients because donors could not be found in time. Nanditha, another teammate, shares how we were able to overcome this hiccup.
“We coordinated with hospitals, NGOs, and attendants in arranging e-passes and transportation. This helps the load off the patient’s family and makes attendant-donor interaction as seamless as possible.”Nanditha, Engineering Student
After having successfully connected over 100 donors with patients, NGOs like Red Cross India and Chennai Tricolour have also asked us to assist patients in government hospitals or those who do not have access to mobile phones. People have started filling our forms directly. We also gained acknowledgment from celebrities like Sid Shriram, Suresh Raina, and Aishwarya Rajesh, which greatly contributed to expanding our database.
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