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Phuket Petition: Foreign donations critical in recurring calls for blood



PHUKET: Coming as it does every year during the high season for tourism here in Phuket, Valentine’s Day once again coincided with urgent pleas for donations of rare negative blood, this time for a Danish road accident victim desperately in need of it.

Negative blood types are very rare among Thais, who make up the bulk of the donors at the Phuket Regional Blood Center at Saphan Hin or at any of that facility’s year-round mobile clinics.

Blood type, determined by well-known genetic factors, tends to vary considerably among different ethnic groups. In the Rh grouping system, the proportion of Asians with negative blood types is only .03%; but among Caucasians it’s 500 times greater at a full 15%.

Phuket’s annual influx of millions of tourists from all over the globe – coupled with the appalling lack of safety on the island’s roads – inevitably results in crashes that leave foreign patients in hospital with a life-or-death need for an Rh- blood transfusion.

What tends to result during periods of shortages are cries for help, often through the media, from friends and relatives of the victims.

These efforts sometimes lead to a temporary increase in awareness of the issues involved and a resulting spike in Rh- blood donations, but over time the demographic imbalance inevitably reasserts itself and shortages recur.

Of course not all blood transfusions are the result of road accidents or other trauma events. Phuket has long billed itself as a provider of international-standard medical care at affordable prices, a pitch that has thus far been successful in attracting many Western patients to the island.

However, as any physician will freely admit, even the most benign surgical procedures carry some risk of complications that could lead to blood loss. So the precarious levels of Rh- blood reserves much of the year pose an ongoing threat to Phuket’s ability to market itself as a genuinely international medical hub.

Readers of all blood types who qualify to do so are highly encouraged to donate blood, which in Buddhist Thailand is increasingly seen as a powerful way of making merit.

Foreign residents who want to donate but don’t know their blood type can easily have it checked, free-of-charge, at any of the mobile clinics or international hospitals. For a list of these, see the link above.

Those with Rh blood types are particularly urged to donate. After all, we are all subject to disease, injury and the other slings and arrows of fortune. And for the Rh- among us, that donation you make today could save your own life some time down the road.

— Steven Fein


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