Blood Transfusion need in India

Our Inspiration: Gayatri Naidu (Anand's wife) during her chemotherapy for acute myelogenous leukemia.

India has a long way to go in terms of cancer treatment. As one knows, many cancer patients go through chemotherapy treatment and require frequent blood transfusions during the period following the infusion of chemotherapy drugs.Because of the basic lack of blood banking facilities and infrastructure at major hospitals, much of the responsibility with respect to transfusions (red blood cells and platelets) is placed in the hands of the cancer patientís family.

I would like to relate the painful experiences that I personally went through with regards to my wife who was a leukemia (AML) patient receiving first round chemotherapy treatment at a well known reputable hospital in Bangalore.

Most AML patients routinely require platelet and/or red blood cell transfusions immediately following chemotherapy drug infusion. Hospitals in India do not seem to have readily available supply of platelets and/or red blood cells, which is something we take for granted in US hospitals. Platelet transfusions are needed to prevent bleeding and red blood cells are needed to boost low hemoglobin levels. The burden of procuring the much need platelets and/or red blood cells rest on the patientís family. Not only did I have to identify donors whose blood type matched that of my wifeís, but I had the responsibility of planning the logistics of taking the donor to a blood bank, have the donorís blood tested, have the donorís platelets extracted and personally transport the platelet bag back to the hospital. A typical day would start with the doctor telling me in the morning that my wife needed a blood transfusion after which I had to scramble to find a donor, which in itself was a challenge due to the blood type match requirement between patient and donor. Before leaving the hospital I would wait for a fresh blood sample extracted from my wife which I would later take to the blood bank for matching. I had to then convince the donor that the platelet extraction procedure was safe and would not affect him/her. I would then personally accompany the donor to the blood bank, have the donorís blood tested and matched and provided there were no issues with the donorís blood nor the platelet extraction equipment, have the donorís platelets extracted in a bag which I personally held in my very own hands and made the journey back to the hospital in the heat and dust of Bangalore roads. I was worried whether anything would go wrong (such as inability to find a donor or the donor failing the blood test or blood mismatch or a platelet extraction equipment failure) and if so, the transfusion would not have been possible on that day thereby endangering my wifeís life. There was an instance where I got only a partial bag of platelets due to an equipment failure, but thankfully there was enough of it to carry my wife to the next day. I was also concerned whether I was even to qualified to handle and transport blood as no one (neither the blood bank nor the hospital) gave any instructions as to how the blood should be handled. I wondered if the blood was being affected in anyway as I was holding the bag with my bare hands and transporting in a vehicle with soaring temperatures outside.

As it stands today blood banking facilities in India are primitive. I had the privilege of tapping into my colleagues at work as potential donors and had the resources to be able to procure blood for my wife in a timely fashion. But this is not always the case. There is no doubt that hospitals in India are in dire need of better blood banking facilities and I am supportive of anything that helps improve this situation.

Anand Naidu,
San Jose, CA