PAHO honours Cayman blood donors

The Cayman Islands was recently honoured by the Pan American Health Organisation World Blood Donor Day Conference in Washington, D.C. for notable contributions to the promotion of voluntary, unpaid blood donations.

World Blood Donor Day has been celebrated for the past three years and aims to promote voluntary blood donations.

Cayman was one of the 14 countries throughout the Americas that were awarded at the conference.

‘It was a pretty humbling and remarkable experience,’ said Carl Brown, chairman of the Cayman Islands Blood Donors Association. ‘I just represent a bunch of people who really do all the work.’

The 14 honourees were given a grand tour of the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, DC, which is equipped with the most modern blood donor facilities.

‘It was fascinating. The choice of paint colour on the walls and the lighting were all ergonomically sensitive to ease the donating process. They even had white noise in the donating areas so that no one could hear the conversations between nurse and donor.’

Mr. Brown was encouraged by the progress Cayman has made when he met representatives from other countries. With the stronger network and the exchange of ideas at the conference, Mr. Brown gained new ideas to implement here.

‘Surinam honours their blood donors with gold medals presented by the President. That is something I would love to see Cayman adopt.’

The Cayman Islands Blood Donors Association is examining the possibility of acquiring a mobile blood unit so volunteers don’t have to visit the hospital to donate.

In the meantime the association is launching a Blood Donor Identification programme where donors in the will be given stickers for drivers licences and car windshields.

The drivers licence stickers, sponsored by Ernst and Young and under the direction of Betty Duty, will denote the drivers blood group and this information can assist medical personnel in case of an accident.

‘It does not replace blood type testing, but it will significantly reduce the time and point [the medical personnel] in the right direction,’ said Mr. Brown.

Stickers for the windshield, sponsored by Irma Arch of Miracle Brokers, will give the donor access to the designated blood donor parking spaces at the hospital.

In the last decade, a significant portion of the donor pool has been lost due to the vCJD disease, more commonly known as mad cow disease, outbreak in Europe.

‘There are several emotions that go along with this restriction,’ said Mr. Brown.

‘Those that are unable to give feel disheartened as it is something small they can do to help another human being, and they also feel angry that they have been singled out.’

Mr. Brown encourages those who cannot give because of this restriction, to use their energy and beliefs to motivate those who can give.

‘You’ll have done your job,’ he said.

Donors must be at least 18-years-old to donate blood, or 17 with a parent’s permission. A new awareness programme will target churches and children in schools on the benefits of donating blood.

‘One pint of blood can save three people’s lives,’ said Mr. Brown. ‘Even young children can understand how valuable that is.’

Being such a close knit community, the gratification of giving blood to save a neighbours life cannot be tagged with a price. Often those who are called in to donate inquire if it is for the accident victim they heard about over the weekend, explained Mr. Brown.

In receiving the award, Mr. Brown thanked the people in Cayman who have continually been giving.

‘It is the most remarkable thing anyone can do.’