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Beneficiaries urge more to donate blood

SINGAPORE — Diagnosed with thalassemia at the age of three, Mr Goh Chun Hui’s childhood was marked by frequent stays to the hospital for blood transfusions — almost once every two months — popping numerous vitamins daily and battling fatigue.

SINGAPORE — Diagnosed with thalassemia at the age of three, Mr Goh Chun Hui’s childhood was marked by frequent stays to the hospital for blood transfusions — almost once every two months — popping numerous vitamins daily and battling fatigue.

The blood disease, a severe form of anaemia, affects his ability to produce normal haemoglobin in the blood, said the fair-skinned 28-year-old, who was born with the condition thalassemia major. To remove excessive iron levels in the blood from blood transfusions, Mr Goh underwent desferal infusions of regular injections and was hooked up to a small pump overnight — a “painful and initially scary experience”. His mother learnt how to administer injections from professional nurses.

“The doctors and nurses had to hold me down (at the hospital) at night, I was screaming and shouting. It was a terrifying experience,” said Mr Goh, who eventually administered the injections himself.

Now, he takes daily tablets instead, and goes for transfusions every three weeks. To Mr Goh, these blood donations are lifesaving and a beacon of hope. “Without (donors) I wouldn’t be standing here talking ... (Their blood) is able to keep me going, to live on,” he said.

National blood-donor recruiter Singapore Red Cross said 109,190 units of blood were used last year, and blood usage will continue to rise by 3 to 5 per cent annually to 220,000 units by 2030.

Singapore needs 350 units of blood every day to meet its blood transfusion needs, added secretary general Benjamin William. “We risk a decline in blood supply as blood donors mature and are more susceptible to health problems ... (But) we expect an increase in the demand for blood, as the elderly develop health complications that require blood transfusions,” he said.

Together with the Health Sciences Authority, the Singapore Red Cross launched the International Missing Type Campaign yesterday. During the week-long campaign, organisations and individuals remove their As, Os and Bs (letters that make up the blood group system) from their websites, social-media profiles and branding.

Mr Goh, an administrator at a real estate firm, noted that his friends began to donate blood after learning about his condition.

Another beneficiary of blood donation is Mr Takalah Tan, 46, who was involved in a motorcycle accident on May 24, 1994. Before the accident, he was an avid sportsman who participated in triathlons, and was a fresh graduate with good career prospects. Then one night, his motorcycle’s handlebar scratched against the side of a car. The impact flung him onto the curb.

The accident blinded him in one eye, tore away his left nostril, fractured his right leg and shattered his face. He had blood clots in his brain and lost one third of his body’s blood. He also contracted permanent amnesia. The incident changed his life markedly. He drifted apart from some friends, and his relationship with his family was strained, as they would become impatient with him.

Despite furthering his studies — a Master of Public Health with respect to brain injury, and a post-graduate diploma in education — Mr Tan bounced from job to job, doing administrative work mainly and teaching occasionally while juggling his work in motivational speaking.

Notwithstanding these challenges, Mr Tan finds time once every three months to donate blood. Initially, he felt obliged to “repay” the large amount of blood he had been given, but he realised quickly that he wanted to “make a difference”. Adding that it is all too easy for people to choose not to donate, as it is “none of their business”, Mr Tan urged schools to inculcate blood donation as a lifelong habit. “We have to communicate to the community to come forward and donate ... People will need an available supply ready at all times, (in case) of unforeseen (instances) or in a crisis ... It’s never enough.”

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