Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IN SEARCH OF THE TOP BLOOD DONORS OF MALAYSIA.

…AND A DIFFERENT KIND OF THE YEAR BASH: 31 DECEMBER, 2013 – A GOOD TIME TO CELEBRATE THE LAST DAY OF THE LAST YEAR, BY DONATING BLOOD FOR THE 400th TIME…
By Mansor Puteh



I took it as good timing that when the time came for me to donate blood for the 400th times, it was close to the end of the year so I arranged to do it on the last day of the year instead.

I take it as a personal achievement. It is not unlike making it to Outer Space, or stepping foot on the peak of Mount Everest which did not have to take such a long time or much effort to achieve, especially these days with sophisticated equipment and many willing sponsors.

For one to be able to donate blood so many times, one has to take more than forty years, so it cannot be an overnight success but a lifelong passion and continuous and regular activity and taking up half a year of his life.

The euphoria is not similar but delightful, more so if some words on it are jotted and shared, especially to those who are doing it including those who have never donated blood all their lives, but who would need some of it in their later years or when they are not in such good health. 

So I planned it so that it happened on the very last day of the year juggling my filming schedule to allow me to donate blood before and after each of the trips I had to make abroad to few countries throughout the last year.

Traveling abroad also has its advantage; so each time I travel I notice that my cholesterol level would normally go down a little due to the physical acts of traveling and doing a lot of walking.

The climax of which is my participation in a film festival in Portugal which selected my new documentary for the competition last November.  

I could very well be the filmmaker/author to have donated blood the most number of times in the world.

It brought me back to the time when I first agreed to donate blood for the first time when I was in Form Six, studying in a private secondary school in Jalan Barat in Petaling Jaya.

My classmate then called Alex, asked me if I would like to join him to go to Hospital University nearby, and I agreed without giving it much thought.

Alex, was also in a band in Kelang called the ‘Yellow Jackets’ had been donating blood few times before, but I did not ask who might have asked him to donate blood.

So if not for Alex, I would not have donated blood all this while.

He was the first blood donor I had ever met and he did not look like one, just as I am.

In fact, I could have been the top blood donor of the country if I had not stopped donating blood when I went to college in Shahalam and later to study at a university in New York City where I stopped donating blood for fifteen years or so, which could easily allow me to donate for more than three hundred times.

Many people find all sorts of predictable ways to celebrate the last day of the year, 31 December, 2013, by doing a host of things which had been done earlier by the others, with some ending up hurting themselves that would require some others to spare their blood to help save their lives.

But I would rather spend it to donate blood.

Donating blood is time-consuming, but it has been an interesting experience which spanned more than forty years of my adult life.

I will still donate blood. And I will try to let them allow me to go on donating blood as long as I am capable of doing it. 

I was amazed if not shocked when I learnt how an American man was allowed to donate blood at the age of 83 years, and in England a 72-year-old man who was originally not allowed from donating blood was told later that he was able to do so.

Surely, these two men did not donate blood for the first time. They must have been doing it for a long period of time.

I also learnt how regular blood donors have not been known to suffer from heart, kidney or lung or other major problems, which is a comforting feeling.

The top blood donors of the country are as yet unknown. No attempts have been made to highlight them. They are still a mystery. So they end up being hidden from the public.

Even those suffering from AIDS and leprosy have been given faces, but the top blood donors of the country are hidden.

Many regular blood donors who had donated many times stop doing so after so long, but they are still unknown, the anonymous blood donors who are never ever given due recognition.

They may be the guy who one sees everywhere who never knew how to talk or brag about what they had achieved compared to the singers who are the pride of the society for having sold so many albums and who managed to become an overnight success, or even the schoolchildren who had achieved a string of As in their examinations who are all given media attention.  

Yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared last year, 2013, that ‘A Blood Donor is a Hero’ (Penderma Darah Adalah Seorang Wira). So where are our blood heroes?

I decided to do something unusual when I donated blood at the National Blood Center or Pusat Darah Negara (PDN) today, by having a small impromptu event, by inviting some of the nurses to post a photo with me holding the certificate saying that I had indeed donated blood 400 times.

And to thank them, I offered wristwatches to fifteen of them so they could remember the occasion, which is insignificant as there are many others or a few others who had donated blood many times more than I have.

So I am curious to find out who they are.

I tried to produce a special documentary on them as the top blood donors of the country, but did not get any support or even encouragement from PDN or even the Ministry of Health.

We all know how the senior officials of the ministry and also PDN do not donate blood regularly a habit which they could have started when they were still in Form Six, so it is not a surprise if they are not eager to see such a documentary produced to highlight the top blood donors of the country.

I was told that the top blood donors are publicity-shy. Is that a fact? Do they feel guilty for donating blood all their lives like it is a sin for them to do so?

Maybe they are just happy to stare at the many mugs, ballpoint pens, tee-shirts, tie-pins, calendars and sometimes umbrellas they get for donating blood over the thirty to forty years that they had donated blood?

It is also unfortunate that they may not be able to clean the bronze, silver and gold medals that they were promised, when they had donated for twenty, forty and eighty times, as the practice of offering them was scrapped many years ago.

If those who only sign the forms to offer their organs, when they die can smile widely for the media, to show how caring they are, then surely the top blood donors, too, can be cajoled to put faces to numbers, being the top blood donors of the country.

All that I have found out is that the top blood donors comprising of people who have donated blood for more than five hundred times, are people from all races and they are mostly ordinary persons.

There is nothing extraordinary about them. They come to PDN to donate blood quietly and leave as quietly as they had come.

No one could tell how many times they had donated blood as there is no fanfare given to them when they arrived.

However, the sad truth is that the top blood and the regular blood donors of the country are mostly not professionals, or those who were educated abroad, or who are involved in the NGOs and other agencies.

I have also not seen any national athletes or sportsmen coming to donate blood on a regular basis.

Most of them are also not public figures or well-known either. There is no one in the parliament including those who hold top posts in the political parties who donate blood regularly.

I found it amusing how an elderly religious personality who said blood donating is good, yet, he had never ever donated blood in his life.

It is therefore easier for anyone to inform the others how donating blood is good, but it is another matter to donate blood.





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