A 31-year-old female blood donor from north Kashmir’s Kupwara district has set a glaring example of social service as she has donated blood twenty-five times in the past nine years.
Bilqees Ara, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) working at health and wellness centre at Gundchabotra village in Kupwara said she first donated blood in 2012 to her cousin who was pregnant and was in dire need of blood.
“I had accompanied my cousin to the hospital where doctors said she needed blood. That is how I donated for the first time,” she said.
Bilqees, a mother of three children said once her child who was ailing in a hospital needed blood and she donated that time too.
Wife of a teacher, Bilqees said most of the women in her area are suffering from anemia and are often in dire need of blood when they deliver their babies.
“I always stand ready to go for blood donation. I am donating it just to save precious lives,” she said.
Bilquees said last year, there was a pregnant lady from her area who was admitted in Lal Ded maternity hospital Srinagar and she needed blood immediately.
She was informed about it at 11 in the night. Bilquees along with her husband drove to Srinagar during the night and donated blood for the patient.
Her blood helped make that recovery possible.
Besides herself being a blood donor, she is an active campaigner for the same cause as well.
“I ask everyone to donate blood. There is nothing wrong with it. There is still a social stigma about it when it comes to females. But now I get calls from many women who also want to donate their blood,” she says.
Optimistic Bilquees is satisfied being part of such a noble cause.
“If I save a life by donating one pint, it gives me pleasure. I want to donate till my last breath,” she says.
Bilquees is a regular blood donor at District Hospital Handwara where she has donated blood more than twelve times so far. She has also donated blood at Sub District Hospital Kupwara and LD Hospital Srinagar on several occasions.
“Whenever a patient needs blood, officials at Blood Bank at DH Handwara call me and I try to make myself available as quickly as possible to donate blood,” she said.
She said her determination has also motivated her husband who is also a blood donor. She is encouraging women in her neighborhood to donate blood.
The ASHA worker, also a COVID-19 warrior, said she has been at the frontlines in vaccination and has motivated people to come forward and get vaccinated.
Since the Covid vaccination drive started across Kashmir, she has persuaded scores to take the COVID vaccine to keep the deadly disease at bay.
During 2014-15, Government Medical College, Srinagar conducted a study titled 'Gender Differences in Blood Donation' among donors of Kashmir. The study revealed that females contribute a meager 4.44% of blood while blood donation by males was 95.56% in J&K.
Dr Javaid Iqbal Khan, a hematologist at Srinagar’s Lal Ded hospital who also handles the hospital’s blood bank said there is no government protocol for blood donation.
“When we are in dire need of blood during emergencies, we inform the public. We also contact the volunteer donors directly,” he said.
“Those who donate blood, it regenerates among them. Donors need to eat an iron-rich diet. They should also eat fruits, meat and vegetables,” Dr Javaid said.
The need for blood is often felt at the maternity hospital.
The doctor said a male can donate 4 pints in a year while a female can donate three times in a year.
“If someone donates more than four pints, it will become problematic and can cause anemia. Any person below 18 can’t donate blood. It is a crime,” Dr Javaid said.
“In India, 65 is the upper age limit to donate the blood. The best age is 60. In developed countries, the upper age limit for the donation is 75,” he said.