Dubai Gem school pupils turn out in numbers to give blood

More than 80 teenagers took part in the school's annual blood donation drive run in conjunction with Latifa Hospital.

Pupils at Dubai Gems Private School give blood during their sixth donation drive, organised in association with Latifa Hospital. Jaime Puebla / The National
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DUBAI // About 50 pupils, parents and teachers did their bit to address the country’s blood shortage by donating – many for the first time.

Aarushi Talwar, 18, was one of those who had never given blood before and admitted she was nervous.

“I felt a little faint for a bit when the blood didn’t stop flowing after I donated,” said the grade 13 pupil at Dubai Gem Private School, in Oud Metha.

“But then it got better and it wasn’t so uncomfortable. It is for a good cause and I’ll donate blood again.”

Aarushi took part in the school’s annual drive, held with Latifa Hospital, to encourage more people to give blood. It was organised by the grade 13 pupils.

“One in four people in a hospital need blood but one in four don’t donate,” said Raveena Kriplani, 18, the school’s head girl.

“There is more demand than supply the world over, and in the UAE.

“Leukaemia is the most common kind of cancer. When we visited Latifa Hospital recently, we saw that 75 per cent of them who had leukaemia are children. Every two weeks a child needs a blood transfusion.”

This was the sixth year the school had organised the drive.

“This is part of the school’s community service,” said the principal, Keith Sedgwick. “It is basically a tradition. Students are aware that thalassaemia and accidents can happen to anyone.”

Before a 450-millilitre unit of blood is collected, volunteers’ haemoglobin count and blood pressure are checked. Samples are tested for malaria, HIV and hepatitis before the blood is processed and made ready for patients.

The procedure takes two days. Although blood can be stored for up to 42 days, units are in high demand and are usually used within two days.

“There is a shortage of blood,” said Diana Montero, a nurse at the Dubai Blood Donation Centre, one of the country’s biggest blood banks. “Our centre is the only blood bank which supplies blood to all hospitals in Dubai.

“We are located near the thalassaemia centre and each child needs five units. We collect more than 150 units a day and they are generally gone in two days. That is why donation is continuous and we need more donors.”

The centre runs regular campaigns through various companies and employs mobile buses to collect blood.

According to Ms Montero, the O negative blood group is the most in demand in Dubai, while AB negative is the rarest.

Pupils know each drop counts.

“They say even one unit can make a difference,” said Arushi Grover, 18. “I hope my blood can help someone.”

“I am happy to donate my blood,” said Monil Dawa, 17, who had to get consent from his parents because he is not yet 18. “I feel strongly about this cause.”

Parents also turned out in strong numbers to show their support.

“It is good that parents are being encouraged to donate,” said Sonal Waya, 38, who has two children at the school. “It is easy to donate in the school as I can do this when I come to pick up the kids.”

The school’s head boy, Ashwin Mehta, said younger pupils were also doing their bit.

“We had a red T-shirt day for the younger students as they can’t donate,” he said. “They also helped make bookmarks as gifts to the donors. We also have giveaways like key chains, perfumes and T-shirts.”

Another blood donation drive is being organised by the Indian consulate in Dubai on Friday. Starting at 10am, the four-hour event will accept the first 70 donors.

“The consulate encourages young Indians above the age of 18 to donate blood,” the consulate said. “Donating blood is a social responsibility and a noble cause.”

The drive is being organised with the Indian Business and Professional Council, Dubai, and Life Pharmacy.