Save a life, give blood

The Prague Post

Red Cross has donation centers across Prague

Looking for a cheap and easy way to help someone in need? Give blood. It doesn’t cost you a thing, and you most likely have some to spare. The Czech Republic Red Cross will be more than happy to accept your donation at one of its eight transfusion centers in Prague.

Officials here say that the country’s hospitals currently have enough blood, but they could always use more — just in case.

“Doctors at the transfusion centers say, in general, there is enough blood, but during summer and the holidays, in big hospitals, they may be short,” explains Jaroslav Hornych, who is responsible for the Red Cross’s blood donor’s award program.

And, of course, there are always unforeseen emergencies like the recent train accident this past August in north Moravia. The local hospital, Hornych notes, did not have enough blood on hand to deal with the injured. However, once staff put out a call for donations, the hospital was able to get what it needed.

In general, Hornych adds, “if you look at the statistics, the numbers match. Meaning, the number of people who give blood is equal to the amount of blood needed per 1,000 people.”

In cooperation with Czech Radio, the Red Cross holds a public blood drive twice a year but is happy to accept your donation year-round. A recent countrywide blood drive was held in conjunction with the Internal Affairs Ministry. It targeted police officers and firefighters, who were encouraged to give blood from April to May this past year. Red Cross officials note that 980 people gave blood during this promotion.

Miroslava Jirůtková, a program director for the Red Cross, says donors simply need to go to a transfusion center near their homes, and there will be a doctor plus information about whether they are able to give blood.

Conditions for giving blood are set by the Health Ministry. You can’t donate at all if you have certain diseases like hepatitis or heart disease. Some problems will prevent you from donating immediately, but you could donate in the future. For example, if you’ve just had a tooth pulled or are running a fever, you’d have to wait a bit before donating.

When you arrive at the transfusion center, you’ll go over your health history with the doctor and give a sample of your blood to be tested. Hornych says women often discover they have low hemoglobin and are unable to donate. You need to be between the ages of 18 and 60, but Hornych says if you have donated before you turned 60, you can continue to give blood until you are 65. The whole process takes 30 to 45 minutes. Men can donate up to four times a year, and women can donate three times. Donors do not get paid.

The Red Cross is also hoping to promote blood donation to the younger population, Jirůtková says.
“We focus all our activities on the recruitment of new blood donors,” she says. “We focus on high-school and university students because we are missing young people in our donor base. We want to start them when they are young, and it is important for us that they know how important blood donation is to us.”

The Red Cross does a variety of promotional blood donation events. Jirůtková says for their youth project they wanted someone well known and close in age to their target market to help promote the cause. Officials were lucky enough to secure former Miss Czech Republic contestant and model Eva Čerešňáková. She gathered some of her model friends, and the Red Cross held a blood donation event in the summer that was a success, according to officials. Jirůtková says the Red Cross also hopes to make a promotional video to be shown in schools on the importance of blood donations.

An important aspect for the Red Cross is honoring the people who have given blood. A series of awards are granted to people based on how many times they’ve donated. Hornych says about 5,000 people receive some kind of donation award from the Red Cross every year. In addition, there is an annual event held at Prague Castle for the top 25 donors. This year, the Red Cross is honoring those who have given blood 250 times.

Close to 300,000 people donated blood through the Red Cross in 2007. With 67 transfusion centers throughout the country, plus regional and local branches, the organization has made it easy to donate this potentially life-saving substance.

The history of the Red Cross in this region goes back to 1919, when the International Committee of the Red Cross approved the Czechoslovak Red Cross. Then, in 1993, the International Committee granted approval to the Czech Republic Red Cross. In addition to blood donation, the Red Cross also provides humanitarian assistance, first-aid training and social assistance to the elderly, refugees and other needy populations.