HCMC in dire need of blood for Thalassemia patients

By Le Phuong   November 21, 2019 | 07:19 pm PT
HCMC in dire need of blood for Thalassemia patients
A patient receives treatment for Thalassemia at the HCMC Blood Transfusion Hematology Hospital. Photo by VnExpress/Le Nga.
HCMC needs 10,000 regular donors to provide blood for patients with the inherited blood disorder called Thalassemia, but it has just 700 now.

Thalassemia is a sickness that needs frequent blood transfusions and matching blood phenotypes between the givers and the receivers aside from just blood group and the Rhesus factor, said doctor Phu Chi Dung, director of Ho Chi Minh City Blood Transfusion Hematology Hospital.

The hospital manages the city's blood bank and specializes in examining and treating all hematological pathologies for not only the city but the entire southern region.

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder caused when the body does not make enough of a protein called hemoglobin, an important part of red blood cells. When there is a lack of hemoglobin, the body's red blood cells will not function properly and they exist shorter than they should and therefore there are fewer healthy red blood cells traveling through the bloodstream.

Red blood cells carry oxygen to all the cells of the body and when there are not enough healthy red blood cells, there is also not enough oxygen delivered to all the other cells of the body, which may cause a person to feel tired, weak or short of breath, preventing them from leading a normal life.

Patients have to receive periodic blood transfusions. With early diagnosis and regular matched blood transfusions, they can stay healthy and do not have to rely too much on others.

In case the patients receive donated blood that does not completely match in terms of phenotype, their body will increasingly create antibodies and gradually, the subsequent blood transfusions will become less and less effective.

However, if they receive suitable blood, their condition will improve a lot and the period between the transfusions could be extended to six weeks rather than the normal four weeks.

There is no cure for thalassemia except bone marrow transplants and this applies only to a small proportion of patients.

For the past four years, the Blood Transfusion Hematology Hospital has run a club of blood donation volunteers.

The club now has just 667 members, but the real demand is for at least 10,000 such volunteers, said Nguyen Phuong Lien, the hospital’s deputy director.

The hospital has so far given priority to Thalassemia patients in serious condition and young patients, so many have had to receive blood without matching phenotypes.

While many countries run the phenotype test for free, it costs VND800,000 ($34) per test in Vietnam.

Doctor Dung said that so far, his hospital has had to cover the cost for volunteers who donate blood particularly for Thalassemia patients. It has called for volunteers on its own without any help from the state.

Offering the phenotype test for free to all blood donors can enrich the blood bank and help cope better with Thalassemia, Dung said.

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