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Sunday, June 14, 2009

World Blood Donor Day - Africa Mercy's Walking Blood Bank

The following article is published from Medical News Today for World Blood Donor Day - June 14th! We are privileged to be among the donors on the Africa Mercy! I can agree with Ali that it is very rewarding to know the person that your blood helps!

Walking Blood Bank, UK

14 Jun 2009

World Blood Donor Day is being celebrated across the world at the weekend (14th June) but there will be nowhere like the walking blood bank on board the world's largest charity hospital ship.

Volunteers on board theAfrica Mercy, run by the international charity Mercy Ships, provide an instant and accessible source of blood for the thousands of patients that Mercy Ships help save every year.

There are no facilities to store blood onboard the ship so, for the patients who need blood during and after surgery, the volunteers on board donate it there and then.

Ali Herbert, a theatre nurse from Gloucester has been volunteering on board the Africa Mercy for six months and is called upon regularly to donate blood.

She said: "Mercy Ships has a very unique blood bank. The most recent time I was called upon to donate blood I was working in the operating theatre but giving blood is a priority.

"The process of giving blood is not so different from home. What is very different however is seeing it being checked and given to a patient in one of the ICU beds within three minutes. There is no need for a blood warmer!

"On this occasion, my blood was being used for a woman who, later that day, was having a below the knee amputation but was actually too ill to have surgery that day. It is not very common that you meet the person your blood is going to so seeing exactly where your blood is going and meeting the person it is helping is very rewarding."

At any one time, Mercy Ships has about 30 potential donors for each blood type on board the Africa Mercy, all of whose blood has been checked on arrival. The lab onboard the Africa Mercy compares the patient blood samples, which are taken and tested upon admission, with the potential donors. Volunteers can be called upon day or night to give a pint of blood with the donation often being walked straight over to the patient for transfusion while it is still warm.

Mercy Ships, is an international charity that providing free medial and humanitarian care to the world's poorest people and the Africa Mercy embarked on a 10-month outreach to Benin in February. Since then, 54 units of blood have been donated to 21 patients.

Judy Polkinhorn, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK said: "Donating blood is a selfless act and blood transfusions save millions of lives every year, including on the Africa Mercy.

"Our volunteers range from doctors and nurses, to cooks, cleaners and engineers but all have the opportunity to save a life by donating their blood - and many do. Mercy Ships only exists because of our volunteers giving their time and experience to help those most in need and many of our patients exist today because a volunteer also gave them their blood.

"We are extremely grateful and thankful to all or volunteers and truly believe they are a unique group of individuals."

Over the last 30 years, Mercy Ships has worked in over 70 countries providing services valued at more than £450million.

The international charity has treated more than 230,000 people in village medical clinics, performed more than 41,000 surgeries, 205,000 dental treatments and completed over 1,000 community development projects focusing on water and sanitation, education, infrastructure development and agriculture.

Mercy Ships UK

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