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Interview with Tigran Muradyan

A large donor campaign “Good in our blood” called by the organizers the most unusual in the history of the university’s donor movement was held on 16-17 and 20-24th of April in the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University. Tigran Muradyan, the head of the medical department and lieder of the donor movement of the university since 2010 told us how to conduct donor activities during combat against the spread of coronavirus infection.

Tell us about preparations for the April campaign “Good in our blood”, during the quarantine period. What preliminary steps preceded it? What had to be abandoned?

The donor campaign in April was really the most unusual in all aspects. Preparations were started at a time when a new coronavirus infection began to spread throughout Russia. Already in early March, many organizations began to cancel donor actions on their territory with the participation of visiting teams of blood centers, and others - those that were planned before the end of May. Exactly a month before our action - March 16-17, almost all universities switched to distance learning. At that moment, there was still little hope that in a month it would be possible to fight with the infection and the incidence curve would go down, allowing us to return to the usual educational process. Around the same time, we first started talking about the fact that there was a shortage of blood donors, and if nothing is done, then a shortage of blood is possible.

The donor movement at the Russian National Research Medical University is an annual schedule of donor and other events. On March 14, 19 and 21, we had planned actions that we did not cancel. These events became a training session before the big campaign “Good in our blood”. March 19, we spent the traditional Donor Day at the University Hospital - The Research and Clinical Institute for Pediatrics named after Academician Y. Veltischev, where administration officials, doctors, nurses, residents regularly donate blood. And on March 14 and 21, a unique plasma quarantine campaign was held at the hostel and medical center, to which donors donated blood for the last time in 2017-2018 at our place or at the Blood Center named after O. Gavrilov, were invited. We spent these three donor days in compliance with measures to prevent the spread of infections. We are a medical university, these measures are familiar to us. At the entrance, a volunteer in a mask measured the temperature of a potential donor with a non-contact thermometer and offered hand antiseptics, while others controlled the observance of the distance and the ventilation mode. Not many people participated, so everyone kept the distance. We have introduced electronic registration before, it takes 5-6 minutes on the registration of the primary donor, and 2-3 minutes on the second one. It helps to reduce the contact time of the donor and the registrar. Then as normal: a physical examination, a laboratory, the actual donation, the issuance of a certificate. The events were carried out successfully enough, which inspired us with confidence - we can! Time before our campaign was running out, restrictive measures were becoming tougher. Usually, two weeks before, we start promoting the event, answering all questions, and in early April it was necessary to announce. But this was not possible in such uncertain conditions, Our call to continue to donate blood in the context of a shortage of donor personnel through the Office of External Relations was picked up by the responsible media, for which we are very grateful. Almost all news agencies spread it. Many donors, including ours, independently turned to blood services and made their next blood donations. Well, someone donated blood for the first time, because such conditions are a good incentive to become a donor for those who were waiting for the moment to come when "they really need blood." We have our own blood transfusion unit at the Russian Children's Clinical Hospital, where seriously ill children with need in daily transfusions of blood components are treated. A lot of donors donated blood there, providing great support to patients and doctors. Our students know that in April the Big Week of the donor “Good in our blood” is held annually. For many, this is a long-awaited event. There were a lot of questions about whether the action will take place or not. When we replied that we wanted to hold it, we received words of support from donors. Taking into consideration all this, we have decided - "who, if not us?" We consulted with the administration of the Blood Center named after O. Gavrilov - our long-standing partner, talked with colleagues from the Department of Health, discussed at the university administration, which takes the final decision. I can say with great pride that the idea of holding a donor action was supported by the rector and all members of the administration, of course, in compliance with all measures to prevent the spread of infection. At the same time, each of the vice-rectors supported the preparation for the action as much as possible, and the vice-rector for scientific work and vice-rector for strategic development, our regular donors, personally visited the action and donated blood. Once again, we were convinced that for the Russian National Research Medical University, the donor movement is an integral part of life, even in such conditions! Of course, we understood that during the campaign we would have to reduce attendance. We announced the event three days before, and the day before a system of digital passes was launched in Moscow and in the region. We drafted instructions on how to write out a pass for ourselves in order not to become a violator. This is also a specific problem that we dealt with - not a single donor refused to give blood because of passes. We had to exclude many things, which create a crowd of people. We did not arrange a photo zone, the buffet was closed for gatherings over a cup of tea after a blood supply. Interactions were canceled - usually we play the board game "Moscow Donor", which was developed by the National Health Development Fund and the Blood Center named after O. Gavrilov with the participation of our university. Electronic registration was transferred to a remote format, we refused from our beautiful female registrars, left only two workers for those donors who, for some reason, could not register in advance.

How was the donor event announced? Have you had to worry about the new format?

We used the usual communication channels. This is primarily our donor, university and the Blood Center social networks, emailing to all donors, and to those who could not donate blood due to temporary contraindications, this is the work of our call center. There were information posters in the dormitory and speakerphone, the transfer of information to students through the council of students, etc. But habits are above all - our donors already know about the dates approximately. In addition, my phone is freely available - there were enough calls, as usual. We did not seek to many participants, but tuned in to the fact that each donor was important and did not set any quantitative goals. We only put the limit of 20 donors per hour, for which we introduced preliminary online registration. It helped to foresee the number of people by time and distribute them.

Tell us about your team that helped you host the event. Was the number of organizers and volunteers significantly less than usual?

Not a single event of the donor movement can take place without a team. Among them there are both very experienced guys and beginners, there are both regular donors and people with constant contraindications for blood flow. We identified the need for volunteers and asked for the minimum number of help, so that none of them worked in the red zone of COVID hospitals, had contact with workers or patients, and there were no signs of illness themselves. A special team consists of university employees, from technical and business services, to the catering and external relations department. Each employee, taking into consideration the importance of the process, contributed and, at the first request, solved all problems in such an unusual situation. I would like to express my gratitude to the DonorSearch community for cooperation with Yandex.Taxi - each donor was provided with a free round trip by taxi, which secured the blood supply and instilled confidence in each of the donors. Every day after the end of the donor day, the work of the organizers continued - it was necessary to put everything in order, to prepare everything by morning so that in case of unforeseen circumstances, the event could continue as usual. In addition, we contacted every donor who donated blood the day before, clarified their well-being, if there were any problems with the trip, the access system, and expressed gratitude for the donorship in such a difficult time. Taking this opportunity, I would like once again to thank the university staff and the brave organizers of the donor movement, who found the strength to resist panic and provide comfortable conditions for donors!

Due to the difficult epidemiological situation, what measures have been taken to protect the participants?

It may seem strange, but the very idea of holding a donor action during a difficult epidemiological situation is a measure to prevent the spread of infection. We were guided by several conclusions. Firstly, the Centers and blood transfusion departments continue to operate normally. Respectively, the work of the Blood Center visiting team, similar to them, is also possible with precautions from the spread of infection. Secondly, the university’s sports building turned into a branch of the O. Gavrilov Blood Center for seven days for our students, employees who ensure uninterrupted operation of the university, residents of the South-Western administrative district, who were able to realize their donor potential within walking distance from the place of residence, without making a huge journey to Begovaya or Tsaritsyno, which is nevertheless fraught with certain risks. In addition, there are a lot of different universities and dormitories in the district: Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov, First Moscow State Medical University named after I.M. Sechenov, Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry named after A.I. Yevdokimov, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, D.Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia, Moscow Pedagogical State University, Bauman Moscow State Technical University. Students from them also became participants in our donor campaign. The main condition for the event was the strict implementation of measures to prevent the spread of infection. Such as balanced distribution of flows using preliminary online registration of donors, allowed the donor to receive a ready-made set of documents at the entrance, contactless thermometry, the use of antiseptics, alcohol wipes, work in masks, gloves, caps, a minimum of organizers and minimization of contact with donors, maintaining the distance, the use of bactericidal air recirculators in the premises where the donors were located, daily wet double cleaning with the use of disinfectant solutions. Indeed, everything was thought out to the detail: our university always provided the donor with a set lunch, but this time the canteen did not work, so each donor received a lunch box - juice, sandwich and a fruit. And, of course, the free round-trip by taxi allowed donors to reach us relatively safely with minimal contacts along the way.

What was the result of the donor campaign? Did something in the implementation of this action practically under extreme conditions of the coronavirus bring new to you?

236 people have visited us, 188 of them were able to donate blood. Although the indicators are unusual for us, since usually a much larger number of donors are participants in such actions, they are very important! They showed us, the donation is an idea that we are faithful to. It was at a difficult moment that our organizers and donors extended a helping hand and donated their blood to those in need. Of course, we do not forget those of our donors who, without waiting for event, independently visited the Blood Center. These are the moments you understand that everything that has been developed over the years was not in vain: senior colleagues support, like-minded people, and donors come with pleasure and, smile, saying “thank you”! I think that the next actions this year - in June and October - we will carry out in the same mode, with the same measures. This experience is important for us. Of course, I would like other universities to renew their donor activities in the fall semester, because the need for donor blood will increase with the resumption of planned hospitalizations and operations - the health system will return to usual operation. Everyone's help will be important!

And our traditional question: what would you wish to donors and people, who are going to join donor program?

I wish you always be a donor, but never a recipient! Good health to all!

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