It is an unfortunate situation to face; in need of blood for a loved one, making desperate, frantic calls to friends, who in turn call their own contacts until the right donor is found. It is a system that is imperfect but has been functionally in place since cell-phones hit the scene.
Aamir Mahmood, the founder of Pakistan’s first online blood donor database, is all too familiar with the situation. “I was doing my internship in 2001 when my grandfather asked me to arrange blood for a lady in the neighborhood who was urgently in need of it after suffering a brain hemorrhage,” he recalls.
Aamir initially thought that it wouldn’t be much of a problem to arrange five bottles of a certain blood group. “I couldn’t even get a single bottle of blood and the lady unfortunately passed away,” he says. Shaken by the tragedy, he recognized the dire situation one is in when looking for suitable blood donors.
That was a turning point in Aamir’s life. “I decided that I wanted to pursue software engineering so I can somehow use technology to make sure that this never happens again.”
In 2002, he launched pakblood.com, the first-of-its-kind Pakistani website to bring together donors and patients. A service that is now joined by several others including but not limited to blood.pk and pakdonor.com.
Where hospital blood banks are limited by regulatory red tape that often requires them to reveal donor data to their own networks, these databases are mostly public, offering a greater number of donors, and are accessible 24/7.
Blood.pk currently boasts a database of over 13,000 donors. Pakdonors.com is a project of the successful pakwheels.com.
Ahmed Dogal, who is one of many registered blood donors at these sites, felt the need to give back after having a positive experience with these platforms “My wife was in need of blood, and her group was nowhere to be found until I came across the Pakblood database.”
Hematologist Dr. Ayaz Lone sees this as a positive development in the entire local blood donation structure. While comparing it with the present blood bank system he says that “blood banks in local hospitals do not maintain much of a donor database, if they’re short of a particular blood group they’ll likely present you with the option of either getting it from a different blood bank, or using your personal contacts to acquire it”. He further adds that blood banks normally do not provide any donor information to the party in need. Dr. Lone also describes how the ward empties after an announcement of a patient in need of a certain blood group is made.
However, regardless of the channel through which patients and donors meet, Dr. Lone stresses upon regular donation, proper screening of donors, and educating people that blood donation does no harm.