Blood isn’t something we tend to spend a lot of time considering. Some people might even feel a bit lightheaded at the thought of it! However, if you fall ill, blood products could save your life.
In 2021, staff at The School of St Jude learnt about the lifesaving impact of blood donations first-hand, when Standard 5 student, Petro, urgently required transfusions of platelets. Later in the year, after Petro had made a full recovery, they were inspired to donate again, to share this important resource with others in need.
Petro, now in Standard 6, is an enthusiastic and friendly student. In March 2021, he was diagnosed with leukaemia (cancer of blood-forming tissues). Faced with expensive treatment, Petro’s family successfully applied for St Jude’s medical fund, which covers medical and transport costs for the families of severely ill students.
“In the hospital, it was not so fun, but I was happy because teachers and people from St Jude’s came to visit me. They brought me some work to study and also puzzles,” Petro recalls.
While Petro’s treatment was incredibly effective, a common side effect is a reduction in platelets, which can be life-threatening, as platelets are crucial for blood clotting. In May and again in August, Petro’s platelets neared zero, and St Jude’s made a call out for members of our community to donate blood.
“I had a lack of platelets because of the chemotherapy, so I needed some blood transfusions. I can’t remember how many! I got to learn my blood type which is O+,” explains Petro, who is clearly fascinated by the science behind his treatment.
One staff member who answered the call for blood donations was Mr Focus, who works in the Head Office.
“It’s just excellent to know that we could help him,” says Mr Focus. “I believe our little contributions made a difference and I am so excited that Petro is back at school.”
Thanks to donations from people like Mr Focus, and continued medical treatment, Petro was found to be in remission in late September. In October, he returned to school!
“I am very, very happy to be better. I came back to school at the end of the year and I was very happy, seeing my friends, seeing my lovely teachers and studying science,” beams Petro.
While everyone at St Jude’s was overjoyed to welcome Petro back to school, his challenges had opened the staff’s eyes to the great need for blood donations in Tanzania. In order to help others in need of blood products, St Jude’s staff decided to make another round of donations.
Here in Tanzania, around half of all blood transfusions are administered to children under five years old. The next most common use is for women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, while around 5% of transfusions go to people with cancers, like Petro.
In early December, around 20 St Jude’s staff members gathered to donate blood. Some people made their very first donation, while others were return donors.
One donor was Brenda, who is currently completing her Community Service Year (CSY) through Beyond St Jude’s, our program for St Jude’s secondary graduates.
“I know that there are some people who are having a hard time and don’t have access to blood. So, by donating I can reach out a hand to those people who are sick,” Brenda explains of her motivation for donating.
“I wasn’t nervous to donate, I was actually happy. I would do it again,” she enthuses.
Despite donating earlier in the year for Petro, Mr Focus was keen to donate again when he could, and he joined Brenda at the donation day in December.
“It’s a chance to do something good for humanity,” smiles Mr Focus. “And you always get a soda and biscuits afterwards, so how could I be nervous?” he adds with a laugh.
While some people were nervous, the thought that they could help others, like Petro, gave them the courage to complete their donations.
Of course, the main work at St Jude’s is fighting poverty through education, but we’re proud to say that our staff are always looking for different ways to help our community. Inspired by our resilient student Petro, we’re honoured to be able to help those in need by donating blood.
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