Medical: Around 150 units of blood were collected in a blood donation drive in Thimphu on June 13. More than 200 people registered to donate blood.

Organised by the health ministry and Bank of Bhutan (BOB) at its main office in Thimphu, the event was held to commemorate the 12th World Blood Donor Day.

This year’s theme was “Thank you for saving my life.”

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk awarded certificates to 15 donor organisations, three donor motivators and seven individuals who have donated blood more than 20 times.

A donor motivator, Pema Yangzome, of the blood group O positive, has donated blood more than 20 times. She started donating blood in the 1990s when a two-year-old boy suffering from haemophilia required blood. After that, she continued the donations and now donates blood every three months.

Pema Yangzome said that in the early 1990s, people didn’t get blood easily and the blood bank was not well equipped as it is now. She said she witnessed many patients that needed blood and therefore began donation regularly.

She said that many people are misinformed about donating blood, for instance, that it makes you weak or gain weight, which is not true. “I tell them to look at me, I donate and I am healthy,” she said with a smile. “I am going to continue donating blood till I am 60 or until they tell me that I cannot donate.”

Pema Yangzome tells people wishing to donate blood that health officials must be informed if they have a history of unsafe sex because during the earlier blood donation campaign, many units of blood got wasted after it was found to contain drugs or sexually transmitted diseases.

Another regular donor, 50-year-old Tandin Dorji said as a senior citizen he wanted to set an example for youths. He has donated blood about 30 times.

A male donor, whose hemoglobin count is more than 14, can donate blood four times a year, and a female donor whose hemoglobin count is more than 12, can donate three times a year.

Health ministry’s blood safety programme officer, Sonam Wangda, said that among the three types of blood donors, voluntary donors are proven the safest and it constitutes 72 percent of the blood in the blood bank while 28 percent is from replacement donors. The country does not have paid donors for now. The target is 100 percent voluntary donation by 2020.

To ensure the quality and safety of blood and blood products, the Drug Regulatory Authority will broaden its mandate by regulating blood and blood products which is expected to be in operation by November this year.

By Dechen Tshomo