My Easel

October 23, 2007

An Arterial Conversation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aditya Sengupta @ 8:37 pm

I’ll skip the part where I apologize about the uncharacteristically long delay since my last post. With the term coming to a close and my exams around the corner, I probably won’t be able to post too often for the next few weeks either.

This appeared on the front page of the Times of India today. And this was a feature piece inside:

Two weeks ago- October 11th to be precise, I donated blood at a drive in my college. They coupled it with a free Thalassaemia checkup- something that is normally prohibitively expensive.

The drive was carried out by the Think Foundation in association with the State Blood Transfusion Council. It was managed by a group of doctors from KEM Hospital and by student volunteers.

Vinay Shetty, the Vice President of the Think Foundation, a non-government organization that organizes voluntary blood donation drives and helps create awareness about thalassaemia, oversaw the drive. I got the opportunity to have a long chat with him.

Mr Shetty happens to be an alumnus of my college. Mr Shetty has been involved blood donation drives ever since his college days. He organized his first drive at the age of 19 when he convinced his old high school to hold a blood donation drive on their grounds. The folks from the hospital who came to collect the blood came prepared with enough blood bags for just 50 people. They arrived to find a line with many times as many people waiting. They had to send someone back to the hospital to get more blood bags. Needless to say, at the end of the day the lady in charge was gushing with joy.

A few years ago, the person in charge of the blood bank at Breach Candy hospital noticed him- he had accompanied a number of donors to the hospital. He told her about his activities in blood donations. She asked him if he had ever heard of thalassaemia. When he responded in the negative, she directed him towards a society that works with people afflicted with the condition. Ever since, he has been working towards spreading awareness about the genetic blood disease. (In fact, when he came over to my college for the blood donation drive, he went from class to class delivering talks on both issues- blood donation as well as thalassaemia)

An issue he brought up during our conversation was platelet donation. This is something that isn’t very well known. I had never heard about this before, and from the look of things, neither had anybody else I spoke to about this later, save one individual. It is a life saving procedure that helps patients with problems that arise due to platelet dysfunctions and low platelet counts- basically helps people undergoing chemotherapy, those who have AIDS, aplastic anemia and a number of other diseases.

Though the actual donation takes more than an hour, one can donate again after as less as 3 days, unlike regular blood donations, which require a 90 day gap between consecutive donations.

To this end, the Think Foundation has helped establish the ‘Lifesavers’ Club‘, a joint collaboration with the State Blood Transfusion Council and Doctors For You, a group of doctors from KEM hospital.

Beyond his work with blood donation, thalassaemia awareness and platelet donation, Mr Shetty has also been involved in organizing inter-school chess championships and chess championships for the visually impaired. Does the Bournvita inter-school chess championship ring a bell? He’s the man behind it.

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