A and O positive

Soon after the suicide bomb exploded yesterday morning on Taksim Square in Istanbul, several media announced there was a need for blood at the hospitals where the wounded were taken. Two hospitals were mentioned, and the blood types needed were A and O positive. Apparently, colleagues of the wounded policemen were already in line to donate their blood.

We’re not talking about a third world country here, with medical facilities ten or more years behind, with the lowest standards in health care possible. Turkey pretty much offers affordable health care for all citizens, and many private hospitals attract patients from all over the world because they are so up to date in their specialist fields. The hospitals where the wounded policemen and civilians were taken are right in the middle of Beyoglu and Sisli, two very modern and extremely crowded parts of Istanbul.

Nor are we talking about a huge terrorist attack with dozens and dozens of people almost bleeding to death. Thirty two people were wounded, most of them slightly, and only two policemen were severely wounded and in need of surgery. Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not playing down this tragic event, every act of violence is one too many. But from a medical perspective, this is not a number of casualties that seems hard to manage.

It’s wonderful that many Turks are always prepared to donate blood. They rush to the hospital to give blood when a relative, neighbour, friend or even teacher is in urgent need of blood. And Kizilay, the organisation that manages collecting and distributing blood, puts up tents on town squares and there are always people donating blood on the spot. Isn’t it enough? Are all the logistics badly managed? Or is there enough in stock but hospitals use the donors that come in after these sorts of events to get new stocks?

The last possibility seems too opportunistic. It just looks like hospitals in a city of 16 million people with a high risk of both terrorist attacks and earthquakes, just doesn’t have its hospitals’ blood supplies in order. Even very common blood types like A+ and O+ are apparently not in stock. It’s beautiful if people want to donate blood in these sorts of situations to show their solidarity, but if health care depends on it when the going gets really tough, there is something seriously wrong.

5 replies
  1. AJK
    AJK says:

    Is it possible that Kizilay is using it to get more people to donate blood? That is, even if they have enough blood, its always nice to remind people that its good to donate and that the lives of those you rely on rely on your donations?

    I’m not being contrarian for the sake of it, I’m just pointing out another option. I haven’t seen any talk of a “Blood Emergency” so I’m just thinking out loud.

  2. Claire Berlinski
    Claire Berlinski says:

    This is an important post: It raises questions that should urgently be asked about Istanbul’s state of preparedness for disasters. I’ve posted it to Jor El Istanbul’s Facebook page.

  3. Thandelike
    Thandelike says:

    I’d guess it’s mostly opportunism on the part of the hospitals rather than an actual need for the blood to care for those particular patients. Taking advantage of a high profile event to stockpile stores. Not sure if it bodes ill, or is simply the way many public hospitals operate.

  4. Aengus Collins
    Aengus Collins says:

    Do we have reliable numbers/comments from the hospitals re their preparedness?

    Is it possible that the call for blood was less about blood and more about encouraging a sense of solidarity/purpose in response to crisis? (The media seems to have been taking some of its cues from way up the food chain yesterday, esp in terms of non-existent coverage on many channels, which was presumably the ‘restraint’ that was subsequently praised.)

    That general part of town is the motherlode in terms of access to high-standard medical facilities in Turkey. I find it really hard to believe that the hospitals could have had any problems dealing with yesterday’s numbers of casualties.

  5. Helen
    Helen says:

    I agree that the hospital(s)/Kızılay probably took advantage of the attack to encourage donation (and let’s credit them with some forward planning maybe and assume they are thinking worst-case scenario for weeks to come…).

    The fact remains, however, that the situation in Turkey with regards to blood donation is absolutely shocking. Two years ago the father of a close friend needed open heart surgery. Not only did we (and by we I mean the whole family, network of friends and work colleagues) have to beg for donations from all we knew in advance of the surgery, due to complications in theatre we were still running about searching for donors while he was on the table.

    And this was at a university hospital in the capital for a man reasonably well known in the city (put it this way: Süleyman Demirel phoned his widow – yes, the surgery was unsuccessful). It was a farce and made an already traumatic event far harder on all concerned. I was, and am still, disgusted by the whole affair.


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