In Vietnam, certain blood groups are very rare. As all rhesus negative (Rh-) blood types are far less common in Asian populations than they are in Caucasians, blood banks in Ho Chi Minh City and all over Vietnam stock a very limited supply of them.

 

If there’s an emergency, and a patient with an Rh- blood type requires a transfusion, obtaining the right blood is often a big problem.

 

At Family Medical Practice, our answer is walkers — donors who’ve signed up to come into the clinic and donate their blood whenever someone urgently needs it. People who join the walking blood bank complete a form, get tested for their blood type, and are willing to donate if someone is in need.

 

When we need Rh- blood and have trouble getting it from the local blood bank, we will look at our walking donor blood list and call anyone who matches the type. We then ask if they’re willing to come in and donate their blood. Maintaining this list, however, is a difficult task.

 

Because rhesus negative blood types are so uncommon in the Vietnamese population, we need to rely on the somewhat transient expat community — and that list can go out of date very quickly. People come and go, so the list is something we need to update on a regular basis.

 

Potential Donors

 

The call is now open to anyone who knows they have an Rh- blood type, or who don’t know their blood type but are willing to visit the clinic to have it tested free of charge. We’re not asking for blood right now; we’re just asking people to give their permission to be contacted if we need an emergency donation.

 

When an Rh- patient needs a transfusion, we will start calling potential donors. If someone is available and willing, we will ask them to come to the clinic as soon as possible. The process does take some time: when you give blood, you don’t give whole blood, it’s not one person’s blood going straight into someone else. The blood has to be screened and processed first, following stringent international protocols. With most blood transfusions, you only give red blood cells.

 

The blood donation and processing must be done at the blood transfusion hospital. We work with the Hospital of Hematology and Blood Transfusion (118 Hong Bang, Q5, HCMC) where standards are known to reflect good hygiene and safety practices. We will escort a patient and stay with them throughout the entire process.

 

I’ve donated blood there myself and it’s like giving blood in any other country. They ask you to complete a form with personal details and a health questionnaire. Next they’ll take your blood pressure and heart rate and draw a small amount of blood to do a full blood count test to ensure you’re healthy enough to donate blood. They will also take blood to complete screening tests for serious infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and malaria. Once they confirm that everything is okay, you’re able to donate blood.

 

For most people, it normally takes between 10 and 15 minutes to fill the blood bag. They won’t let you leave immediately; the nurses there will ask you to wait around to make sure you’re okay. They will also give you some food and a drink afterwards. So, for a patient who might be concerned about donating blood in Vietnam, I can say that the standards are of good quality; it’s quite a new facility, very clean and professional with highly experienced staff. I am certainly impressed by it.

 

To be honest, every case we’ve had where we’ve called in walkers, they’ve always been very willing to help. I think that most people understand the difficulties, and if somebody knows they have a rare blood type, they would hope that other people would help them given the same scenario.

 

To register for the walking blood bank at Family Medical Practice, call (028) 3822 7848, email hcmc@vietnammedicalpractice. com or pop into one of the clinics. Blood types needed are AB Rh Negative, A Rh negative, B Rh negative, and O Rh negative.

 

A former meningitis vaccine researcher who served in public health in the UK for a decade, Family Medical Practice’s on-site laboratory manager Louise Bishop is on the hunt for fresh blood.

 

Donating Blood in Ho Chi Minh City

 

Regardless of your blood type, all blood donations are valuable. If you would like to donate your blood now at the general blood bank in HCMC, you can visit the Blood Transfusion and Hematology Hospital (Benh Vien Truyen Mau Huyet Hoc), 1st Floor, 118 Hong Bang, Q5, HCMC, Tel: (028) 3957 1342.

For more details email lienlac@bthh. org.vn or click on bthh.org.vn. Blood donations are taken Monday to Friday, 7am to 11.30am and 1.30pm to 4pm.

 

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