Twelve-year-old Soma Chakraborty is fighting for her life in a central Calcutta private hospital, where she has been admitted with haemorrhagic dengue. Soma urgently requires a concentrated platelet of the AB+ blood group, but after her parents scouted all the blood banks of the city at night, all Soma got was one pouch that was not enough.
The city is reeling under an acute blood platelet shortage in the wake of the dengue epidemic, giving victims' families sleepless nights.
'We had scoured not one but all the blood banks all night. We were turned away from each. Finally, we could get one donor, who helped us,' said Rajib, the girl's father.
With the Pujas round the corner, and most clubs busy setting up pandals instead of organising blood donation camps, the blood banks were expecting a shortfall in stocks, but nothing like this.
The current demand for platelets has turned the shortage into a major crisis. 'We are aware of the severe blood crisis and we have appealed to voluntary organisations for help,' said Prabhakar Chatterjee, health services director.
In the past 15 days, just 10 blood camps were organised across the city, in tandem with the state health department. A hundred units of blood were collected, against the usual yield of 400 units. Even last year, the yield was more, but this time, many donors were themselves down with fever and unable to donate blood.
'Never before have dengue, malaria, typhoid and viral fever struck together with such lethal impact. So, we have to screen all donors very carefully,' said Chatterjee.
Blood collection has been 40 per cent less compared with the previous year's figure and Calcutta is feeling its impact.
Most negative blood groups, including AB and O, along with common positive blood groups like B and O and the rarer AB group, have vanished from most blood banks.
Lalita Singh, 24, was admitted to the School of Tropical Medicine with haemorrhagic dengue and she, too, requires a platelet for AB+. But since last Tuesday, her family members have been looking for the required units.
'We don't have any donors and we could not get a single pouch until Saturday,' said a relative.
Family members of Richik Banik, 7, admitted to Medical College and Hospital, have been scouting for O' blood, but in vain. 'After midnight, most hospitals and blood banks are unable to collect blood, because of their inability to conduct AIDS and HIV tests. So, even if you turn up with donors, there is a distinct possibility of refusal,' said D. Asish of Medical Bank.
Most blood banks like Bhoruka, Ashok Laboratory or the ones at RG Kar and Medical College have all been facing the consequences. 'We have our problems, because you are not sure which group to expect and the demand mainly being for platelets (which acts as a coagulant in the body), it has become all the more difficult for us,' said Palash Roy, in charge of the blood bank at Ashok Laboratory.