New Health Minister Mark Scotland and colleague Dwayne Seymour both rolled up their sleeves Friday in a bid to encourage more blood donation in the Cayman Islands.
The Bodden Town pair headed to the Cayman Islands Blood Bank, where they helped mark World Blood Day by donating a pint of blood and urging others to do the same.
The Cayman Islands has roughly 750 regular blood donors at present but officials would like to grow the number to over 1,000 in the coming year.
While international health experts agree the Cayman Islands has one of the safest and best run blood donation programs in the region, local health administrators are still forced to buy blood from the USA every year – at a cost of up to $280 a pint.
‘Every second of every day, somebody needs blood,’ said Christopher Morrison, a medical technologist with the HSA, who had the unenviable task of sticking needles into both MLA’s arms.
The blood is used for trauma victims – due to accidents and burns, heart surgery, organ transplants, women with childbirth complications, newborns and premature babies, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or other diseases, such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia.
Mr. Morrison said one of the biggest challenges for the blood bank is to help people overcome their fear of needles, even though they are only very small these days.
‘It’s just a little prick,’ he said.
Mr. Scotland, who has donated previously, said he was returning to donate in front of the media in the hope it will encourage more people to sign up for this important civic duty and to show there is nothing to be afraid of.
‘It could be myself that is lying down here tonight needing blood,’ he said. ‘It could be a family member or any of us. That’s what everyone should be thinking about.’
First time donor and Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour said ‘I’m here because it is important to save a life.’ He laughed at the suggestion Mr. Scotland had forced him into coming.
‘He was a bit scared,’ Mr. Seymour joked. ‘I’m here to give him moral support.’
So did the needles worry the Cayman’s new health minister?
‘Not at all,’ he said with a widening grin. ‘Not at all.’
Carl Brown, who is involved in the support and fundraising group, Cayman Blood Donors Service, urged young people to get involved.
‘It’s just like voting; it’s a rite of passage,’ Mr. Brown said. ‘Your one pint can save five people’s lives. That life could be a family member; it could be one of your classmates.’
For more information on how to sign up as a blood donor, contact the Blood Bank at the Cayman Islands Hospital at 244-2674 or 244-2669.