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An Odyssey of Blood

Blood is a very Special Fluid (Goethe’s Faust, Act I, Scene 4, plays where Faust enters into the pact with the Evil powers held by Mephistopheles, who asked him to sign the agreement with his blood and spoke these words). These lines have found place in the literature throwing light on the vitality of blood that has always been upheld by the mankind in many forms. Blood, as we know today, found its identity through the years and underwent metamorphosis in its functionality/type and shook the medical world with wonderment, when the possibility of blood transfusion came into light.

The circulation of blood was discovered in the year of 1628 by the British Physician William Harvey and the successful blood transfusion was first recorded in the year of 1665 in England by the Physician Richard Lower by transfusing blood in the alive dog from other dogs. Subsequently, in the year of 1818, the first successful transfusion of human blood to a patient for the treatment of postpartum hemorrhage was conducted by British obstetrician James Blundell. In the year of 1901, a discovery was made by an Austrian Physician, known as Karl Landsteiner , who found ABO, the three human blood groups and also realized that these blood types are inherited and thus, also propounded the way to test paternity. Followed by, in the year of 1907, the first blood transfusion using blood typing and cross-matching was performed by Reuben Ottenberg.

During the World War II, the nations were fighting against each other, which resulted in the higher numbers of casualties; further, to treat those victims who were running low in blood flow within the body were supplied blood instantly via. the help of the volunteers as well as by the network of facilities which stored and collected blood for use in transfusion known to be firstly, established by the Soviet Union. These developments paved way to the ‘blood bank’, the word which was coined by Dr. Bernard Fantus.

Many such developments rocked the medical world and aided in the vigorous attempt to simplify things, as now we know of. Whatever has been done in the field of blood by medical scientists, it has only proved the significance of the blood to our body system, the carrier of vitality and life within us. And, the scarcity of this vital non-regenerative source of life has brought many lives at stake. The occurrences of blood shortage and the frequent rising demand of blood all over the globe owing to various factors like road accidents, sickle-cell disease, surgeries, thalassaemia and many more other reasons has become a major concern.

According to the facts reported by the World Health Organization , around 108 million units of donated blood are collected globally every year, with variation in the number of the collection made in the high-income as well as low-income countries. In India, as per the data collected for the session of 2015-2016 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare , the overall blood collected amounted to 1.1 crore units and the estimated blood requirement is 1.2 crore units per annum i.e. the shortfall of 11.5 lakh units. Many factors contribute in the shortage of blood supply which varies from the short-shelf life of blood to non-accessibility of the blood in the need of the hour.

Although, the blood donation camps are conducted, the blood is collected, blood banks have been established, still, many valuable lives perish in the wait of the blood. Though, many campaigns, street plays and the endeavors like national blood policy conforming to the WHO’s guidelines have been taken up by the government to meet the need of the blood, still a lot has to be done to ensure the safe, easy, reliable and volunteer blood donation. To quote the tweet of Indiana Blood Centre would be appropriate which goes like, “the rarest blood type is the one not in the shelf, when needed by the patient”, addressing the importance of blood and thus, its best to spread the word that as a citizen what we can do is - to donate blood as much as possible and save the precious life.