Wanted: Vietnamese with rare blood types

July, 03/2016 - 09:00

Donation campaigns, blood-type clubs help ensure Rh-negative blood supply

Emergency supplies: Dr. Ngô Tấn Gia Phú (middle), head of a club in the southern region for people with rare Rh-negative blood types. — VNS Photo Ngô Đồng
Viet Nam News

by Gia Lộc

HCM CITY — Thirteen years ago, a five-month pregnant resident of HCM City was told that she badly needed a blood transfusion to prevent a miscarriage.

But her Rh-negative O blood type was in short supply at the city’s blood banks at that time.

“I was told that I should find others with the same blood type because most of the hospitals had a shortage of this type since it is less common,” she said.

Between 0.4 and 0.7 per thousand of Vietnamese, a lower rate than many other countries, have Rh-negative blood. 

None of the woman’s relatives had the same blood type, so she sought help from her cousins’ friends and colleagues in France and Germany, who volunteered to donate blood.

At eight months pregnant, doctors said she needed to deliver her baby via a Cesarean section. She was concerned because she had already had two miscarriages.

“Luckily, there was no problem during surgery. I didn’t need a blood transfusion,” she said.

But other patients in the country have not always been so lucky.

Nguyễn Tuấn Khởi, deputy head of the organisation board for the Red Journey Blood Donation Campaign, said the board had once received a request for Rh-negative blood donations from at least four people for one patient.

Khởi said that Red Journey could only find two people.

“The result was that surgery was delayed,” Khởi said at a forum held June 25 by Red Journey in cooperation with CP Việt Nam Charity Fund, Nhân Ái Vòng Tay Việt JS Company and HCM City University of Technology.

Also speaking at the forum was Dr. Ngô Tấn Gia Phú of Chợ Rẫy Hospital’s Blood Transfusion Centre in HCM City, the head of a club for people with Rh-negative blood, formed to deal with emergencies.

“Many patients have died because of a shortage of blood of these types,” Phú said.

Donation drives: Between 0.4 and 0.7 per thousand of Vietnamese, a lower rate than many other countries, have Rh-negative blood. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyên Lý

In 2000, a patient with congenital heart disease, for example, was brought to the city’s Heart Institute for surgery, but the operation could not be performed until blood was received from donors.

Although donations were finally collected, the patient died while waiting.

In other cases, doctors have had to contact foreign agencies and hospitals in other countries to ask for rare blood types.

People with these less common blood types have set up clubs in case of urgent need, according to Phú.

The southern region’s club at first had 12 members, but now has between 500 and 600.

Even so, the clubs are not enough to satisfy demand.

Many people in the country do not know their blood type, and are unaware there is a need for rare types.

“Each person should be tested at healthcare clinics. And it’s even simpler if they volunteer to join blood donation programmes and receive general health exams and tests,” Phú said.

If they have a rare blood type, they should join the clubs, he added.

The woman from HCM City who needed a blood transfusion during her pregnancy years ago is now a member of a club managed by HCM City Humanitarian Blood Donation Centre.

The club has called her at least once to donate blood.

At a recent press meeting held in the city, Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Anh Trí, head of the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion in Hà Nội, said that before 1993 the nation’s blood supply came mostly from people who sold their blood.

Since then, many blood donation campaigns have been organised, providing nearly 97 per cent of the country’s blood supply.

Last year, around 1.4 million units of blood were collected in the country, an increase of 110.5 per cent compared to 2014.

Blood transfusion centres in the country have also received nearly 55,600 units of platelet cells separated from the blood of donors.

These platelets are needed for patients with certain diseases that lead to a drop in platelet cells, especially dengue fever.  

As a result, more blood donation campaigns have been organised, including the Red Journey effort.

Red Journey plans campaigns this year in 27 provinces and cities, an increase of five compared to last year.

It will also disseminate information about thalassemia, an inherited form of anaemia. Patients with this condition need regular blood transfusions.  

A website www.mauhiemhanhtrinhdo.vn will also be launched to connect the public with health centres. — VNS

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