The COVID-19 pandemic situation in Singapore has gradually stabilised and the vaccination programme is also progressing smoothly. As Nee Soon East Community Club is designated as one of the vaccination centres, the blood donation drive organised by Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) and the Red Cross had to move from the community club to Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre.
"You can donate blood so long as you are in good health and it only takes 4 minutes to complete a donation,” said Teo Lian Huey cheerfully with a thumbs-up. After receiving a message from the Red Cross on the change of location a few days ago, she checked in on the new address with a friend and made a recce trip to confirm the location. She also arranged with a colleague to help cover an hour of her work so that she can complete her blood donation before reporting to work.
It started raining early in the morning of April 24, 2021, but that did not dampen Teo Lian Huey’s enthusiasm. She put on a raincoat and arrived at the Humanistic Youth Centre to complete her 31st blood donation. She was scheduled to receive her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine the following Friday. Given that the blood donation eligibility guideline for donors who received a COVID-19 vaccine is to wait at least 3 days before donating blood, Lian Huey seized the opportunity to donate her blood this time. Although she was curious about the Humanistic Youth Centre, she needed to return to work after the donation. Hence, she would be arranging a time for a future visit.
A Donor who was Once a Recipient of Blood Transfusion is Eager to Keep Donating Blood
Another donor who arrived at the blood donation venue was a familiar face to the staff from Red Cross, with whom they exchanged warm greetings. The donor was Tan Kok Liang, an Assistant Therapist who works at Tzu Chi’s Senior Engagement and Enabling Node (Nanyang). He has donated blood for more than seventy times.
“You have donated enough, you don’t have to repay (your debts) anymore,” said a Blood Bank staff cheekily to Kok Liang a few years ago. It turned out that he had undergone a major brain surgery after a serious accident in 1994 and had received a large amount of blood transfusion then. After his recovery, the hospital encouraged him to support the blood bank when he regains his health fully.
"Happiness lies in the act of helping others. Sacrifices by oneself can fulfil the greater good for many,” said Kok Liang. Always an enthusiast, he would donate blood every 12 weeks and sometimes just after a 10-weeks gap. That is why all the staff from Blood Bank can now recognize this enthusiastic “raging” donor. Even when he had to live abroad previously, he maintained his routine of donating blood over there.
Soh Siew Kwan, a volunteer who was responsible for the coordination work of the donation drive, recalled a blood transfusion experience by her family member. Her mother has the rare O- blood type, which means that she could donate her blood to anyone but only able to receive O- blood. Her mother once required a blood transfusion during an operation several years ago.
"Fortunately, there are still two bags of blood left.” Those words from the doctor back then were a huge sigh of relief for Siew Kwan and it also made her realise the importance of maintaining a healthy blood supply in the blood bank.
On another occasion, Siew Kwan’s father-in-law had also once received blood transfusion for a month when he was undergoing hospital treatment in Penang, Malaysia. The hospital appealed to the family members to donate their blood to help replenish the supply in the blood bank, otherwise, it would not be sustainable. After searching high and low for relatives, Siew Kwan finally found her cousin, whom she contacted for the first time. Fortunately, her cousin and his friends were willing to help.
It is no wonder that Siew Kwan was volunteering to coordinate the programme again to support the smooth operation of the blood donation drive. She thanked Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre for the support rendered such as the printing of new larger posters to strengthen public education and awareness, and the various assistance with the venue. As it was the first time the donation drive was held at a new location, the staff from Red Cross paid special attention during the preparation by checking the flooring before laying on the blue canvas and arranging the beds. Everyone worked together to ensure smooth people movement on the event day.
The precautionary measures against COVID-19 were carried out meticulously. Only 6 volunteers were allowed to help out during each session. Volunteers who were suddenly unable to participate because they were reportedly unwell were immediately replaced by other volunteers. In addition to that, complimentary lunch boxes were provided by Fu Kang Vegetarian Food, allowing everyone to focus on completing the blood donation drive.
We can donate blood despite being amid a pandemic
Ng Shirley, Assistant Head of the Singapore Red Cross Blood Donor Programme, thanked Tzu Chi for its continuous support and partnership in maintaining an adequate blood supply in the blood bank over the years, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. She said, "I feel very assured working with Tzu Chi because the volunteers are very cooperative and also familiar with the processes.”
Shirley shared that Singapore needs about 400 bags of blood daily. At the beginning of the pandemic last year, there was once when the blood collected during donation drives was only a mere 25% of the usual amount. “After the situation was reported in the media, we were incredibly thankful for the enthusiastic support from the residents. Even though there were fewer donors in 2020, we had managed to collect more bags of blood.” Due to the precautionary measures against COVID-19, the weekly number of mobile blood donation drives had halved from 10 to 12 times before the pandemic, to 5 times. She encourages people to make an appointment before heading down for a blood donation while we do our part in fighting against COVID-19.
"In Singapore, only 1.8% of our population are blood donors, of which, 40% donate blood twice or more in a year.” Shirley urges more healthy donors to collectively help on building the blood bank’s supply. She also hopes that those with rare blood types such as negative blood type (RH -) to consider donating at least twice a year.
In this 6-hours community blood donation drive, we received a total of 119 sign-ups and collected 91 bags of blood. That brought some warmth to the rainy Saturday.