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Donors' life expectance is five years longer than the average

Why there can’t be too much donor blood and about the use of regular blood donation not only for patients, but for donors as well.

BLOOD SERVICE: Russia has recently celebrated the National Day of blood donor, on 14th June the Day of voluntary donors will be celebrated in Argentina: there will be the World Blood Donor Day. What do those dates mean?

VLADIMIR UYBA: First of all, this is an occasion to remind of those measures and goals, which build the blood donation promotion program. And it is important to note that lately the promotion of donation in Russia has not been related to certain dates, celebrations, shows and awarding ceremonies.

But holiday is a holiday. And for us, all who work in this field, as well. The current blood donation promotion program is unique in Russia’s history. In Soviet time there were a lot of donors, but blood donation was based on ideology and administrative methods: everybody was donating blood because it was required by the employers. I don’t want to hurt Soviet donors – no doubt that there were people who donated from the bottom of their hearts. But in our time all donors are like that, they do not come to blood transfusion station for bonuses or to get summertime vacation. Instead of ideology there is now just the desire to help people. And I think, this is what we do celebrate.

BLOOD SERVICE:The promotion program of voluntary blood donation ends up next year. What are the achievements?

VLADIMIR UYBA: We will have modernized regional blood services in all 83 subjects of Russia by the end of the year.

We are talking about reconstruction of blood transfusion stations – they must be equipped with the most advanced medical facilities. Plus start of the information system, incorporating blood services in different parts of the country. And of course promotion of blood donation – the work which is not to be stopped whatever high results have been achieved. Even in the Soviet time there wasn’t such an ambitious program. In 2007 when we set to work the situation was utterly catastrophic. The gold standard – 25 blood donors per 1 thousand people - and we hardly had 10 donors per a thousand people in average over the country, and in some regions even 2-4 donors per thousand. You might recall that very often TV news about emergency situations was accompanied by a crawl line that read: donate blood. In other words, we lived in constant risk. This was further aggravated by the absence of connection between regional services. Now our information system allows us in real time in the Federal center to watch what is happening at any of 65 blood transfusion stations, where primary information bases: the number of donors, their quality, stock of different blood groups. That means that we know where from – if any necessity – we can deliver blood in refrigerator cars. We couldn’t do that before 2008, we found about shortage of blood only when tragedies had already happened.

BLOOD SERVICE: Have you managed to get nearer to the gold standard you mentioned: 25 donors per thousand people?

Vladimir Uyba, Head of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency

Vladimir Uyba, Head of the Federal Medical-Biological Agency

VLADIMIR UYBA: There are some regions where this standard is exceeded, while in others it is much lower. Historically the most difficult places are megalopolises. Here we have the highest concentration of medical institutions, including high-tech ones, where the most of different operations are performed. At the same time – people here are the busiest ones. They just don’t have enough time. A person has time to get back from work, talk with children – and that’s it, no time to blood donation at all. Maybe he or she would go to the blood transfusion station, but it’s already midnight. In addition, in the past stations worked only on week days. Now it’s not the issue, it is possible to donate blood on Saturdays. But still, in Moscow we hardly have 5-6 donors per thousand; in Saint Petersburg – 8, in other big cities – 12-14 donors per thousand people. And this is despite the fact that mainly in megalopolises, in high-tech hospitals blood flows like water. Blood is delivered there from other regions. Regions where blood donation movement is ahead are the Center and South of Russia. Even now they have reached 40-45 donors per thousand people. In many other federation subjects – more than 20 donors per thousand, for example, in Jewish Autonomous Region, Tuva Republic and Bashkortostan, Altai republic and Kalmykia, Mordovia, Astrakhan Region.

A new for Russia direction is corporate donation which means businesses are involved in our program. In 2007 in our large sociological research we surveyed thousands of people to find what keeps them from blood donation. One of the most popular explanations is – people are not allowed to leave work. We entered into negotiations with some large companies. Very intense negotiations, I should say. But we did the trick. Everything started with LG. Employees of the huge company started to donate blood in tonnes. Then clients and partners joined. Now another giant is coming to the program – Sberbank.

BLOOD SERVICE: When there is not enough blood, it is bad. But what if there’s too much of it?

VLADIMIR UYBA: Keeping time for blood plasma is 3 years. Indeed, some successful regions ask whether they should reduce the number of donors and cut down the program. The answer is: No way! Extra blood and plasma is not a problem, it’s a wonder! In the end of 2013 a new huge plant will start operation in Kirov – we are building it based on Italian technology, it meets GMP standard. This plant will be able to process as much as 600 tonnes of blood a year into blood based pharmaceuticals which are used to treat hemophilia, for instance. While the plant doesn’t work yet, this year we are designing but in 2012 we are putting into operation processing lines in 15 blood transfusion stations which had similar work experience in the Soviet time. They will be able to produce some much needed medicines like albumin – it is used in a wide range of diseases and it has a long keeping time. The main thing is not to hold back the donor movement. We have blood in excess supply (by the way, 10-12 regions more are close to that, apart from those I have mentioned), and this is an excellent result of the blood donation promotion program.

BLOOD SERVICE: Speaking about donation promotion. What is the main idea you are trying to convey to those who think about blood donating?

VLADIMIR UYBA: I repeat every time: to use your blood we need to receive it twice. It’s just not enough to make one heroic effort: you should come the second time, and not for us to raise our performance, not for pro-forma visit, but to confirm your health state. First portion of donor blood is put in quarantine for six months. There are some diseases with long incubation period – hepatitis or HIV. There are more than ten of them in total. Over six months no medical equipment however modern can detect them. If you donate twice we get your first portion of blood out of quarantine.

Employees of blood transfusion stations always explain to the donors: your today’s impulse is very good, but you must come again. Repeated donation is safeguard of quality and safety.

Blood donation is a huge responsibility. Our blood is a carrier of genetic information. Transfusing the blood of a smoker or a drinker we certainly save a life but with this we give to the recipient some negative information about addiction to smoking or alcohol. Blood donation is a mission. If you have decided to be a donor, it’s the step towards healthy life not only for other people but for yourself. Not everybody knows that donation has positive influence on health.

There are restrictions, though. Men cannot donate blood more than 5 times a year and women – more than 4 times. It’s about 10-12 liters. It’s all about blood corpuscles: red cells, white cells and platelets. You can donate plasma every month. Plasma is just protein in its essence. The more important for the recipient is whole blood, i.e. blood corpuscles. There are some diseases including oncological ones that involve blood corpuscles dying - leukemia, for example. In this case there is no use in plasma.

There is a large study by WHO (World Health Organization) showing that donors’ life expectance is 5 years longer than average. It’s all very simple. First of all, the donor has his blood checked 5 times a year. And this is neither more nor less than the opportunity of super early diagnosis of many diseases which increases chances to cure manyfold. A person, who is not a blood donor, will more likely have his blood tested when the disease is in its depths. In addition, the blood you have donated, this 400 ml, will be replenished by your body. Your blood is renewed, its rheological characteristics, in other words the condition of blood corpuscles get better. And this is good for you health.

How the blood donation program works

Every year 1.5 million people in Russia need blood transfusion. Very often blood is needed to victims of burns and traumas, during difficult delivery or difficult operations, to those who have cancer. In clinics, where cardiologic operations are performed, one cot requires 12-15 liters of blood every year.

There are three lines of the Program’s implementation: equipment of blood transfusion stations with modern medical facilities for blood stocking, processing and storage, creation of singe information database of donors and amounts of blood and its components, communication program to promote non-remunerated mass blood donation. According to All-Russian study of public opinion in 2009 and 2010 eight of ten people (82%) are aware of the Blood Service and have positive attitude towards its activities.

In 2008 15 regional and 6 federal blood transfusion stations took part in events, in 2009 5 federal institutions and 26 regional blood transfusion stations were re-equipped. In 2010 institutions of 22 federal subjects and 5 federal institutions of the Blood Service joined the program. More than 16 billion rubles has been allocated for 4 years of the Program’s implementation.

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