CHEN XIAOQING smiled as she prepared to give blood for the 237th time at the Shenzhen Blood Center yesterday, World Blood Donor Day. A practice she had to hide from her family when she began donating in 1995 has become a part of her life.
“I didn’t tell [my husband] about my blood donation until 1999 when I, as one of 27 from Shenzhen and about 600 nationwide, went to Beijing to accept a national award for our high frequency of blood donation,” said Chen, 52, who also brought two friends to donate blood.
Now donating blood roughly 20 times a year, Chen didn’t expect blood donations to become part of her life when she made her first donation in 1995, two years after Shenzhen started to encourage unpaid blood donation.
“I was kind of driven by heroism when I — for the first time — got into a blood donation vehicle I came across in the Huaqiangbei area,” she said. “At that time, not many people understood blood donation and even fewer people were willing to donate their blood. Blood donation vehicles were rare. But I believe in the old saying that ‘Roses given to others leave fragrance in your hand.’”
After donating her first 200 ml of blood, she said she felt good spiritually and decided to continue donating, but without the knowledge of her family, in order to avoid objection.
After Chen won the award, her husband began donating.
“He was thrilled to find that blood donation didn’t affect my health. On the contrary, it drove me to live a healthy and happy life,” Chen said.
Chen’s husband has donated blood more than 60 times and his son, who marked his 18th birthday by making his first blood donation, has donated more than 20 times.
Blood donors that frequently donate are not rare in Shenzhen, where 3.1 million people had donated 6200 tons of blood as of the end of May, helping more than 1 million patients, blood center statistics showed. Starting in October 1998, blood donation in the city met hospital demand. More than 35,000 volunteers have registered to donate stem cells and 192 have donated, to help patients from the United States, Singapore, South Korea, and China.
“The number of blood donors in Shenzhen increases as the city grows,” said Lu Liang, deputy director of the blood center. “By now, eight people in Shenzhen have donated blood more than 200 times and 260 have donated more than 100 times. Donating blood has become a habit of many Shenzhen residents. A distinctive feature of our city is that blood donated on streets is much more common than blood donated by people organized by their employers or other groups.”
Shenzhen’s team of blood donating volunteers, who usually donate once the required interval, three months for blood donors and 14 days for platelet donors, ends, has grown to 2,400 from about two dozen 20 years ago, according to Lu. “More often than not, the family’s of the volunteers are also frequent blood donors,” Lu said.
Pan Qingwei, the first in China to donate hemopoietic stem cells to a non-family patient, said Shenzhen residents’ acceptance towards blood donation has improved.
“When I donated hemopoietic stem cells in 2001, there were only roughly 400 volunteers who were willing to donate their hemopoietic stem cells,” he said. “Now the number exceeds 30,000.” Pan made his 109th blood donation yesterday at the center.
To Li Shiqiang, who made his 100th blood donation yesterday, blood donation was a motivation to regain his health. He started to donate blood in late 1990s but his blood was found to be unqualified years ago due to liver problems. “I wanted to be a qualified blood donor again, so I tried to live a healthier life by following doctors advice,” said Li.
“Don’t ask me why I’ve donate blood so many times,” said Chen. “Over the years, I found I’ve gained much more than given away.”