The First Ever Fukushima ALT Blood Drive

by Steven Thompson

Last November, 15 brave souls gathered in Koriyama to give their lives to save others.

Well, maybe not exactly their lives, but they did sign up to give blood. Donated blood is life for the people it helps. Aside from emergencies and transfusions, donated blood is also used in life-saving medical research and drug manufacturing. The often-quoted figure is that one whole-blood donation saves the lives of 3 other people, but it can be more, and it certainly means much more.

Donating blood is an important cause to me, and I wanted to put together this blood drive event for two reasons. 1) To show the foreign population in Fukushima that it is not only possible, but relatively easy for us to donate blood once provided with some met requirements and translated forms; and 2) To show Fukushima that we support them in every way, and that just because we’re here temporarily doesn’t mean we don’t want to contribute.

For all my seriousness, the event itself was actually a great deal of fun! We all first gathered at the Stamina Taro buffet in Sukagawa for a huge lunch. Once we’d stuffed ourselves full of carbs and protein, we waddled over to the blood center (located inside Koriyama Station, just up the stairs from McDonalds). The blood center had extra staff on hand to make sure things went smoothly, and two staff members from the Fukushima main Red Cross office came down to offer English assistance as well. The Tokyo Head Branch even got involved, sending collaborating documents, and their heartfelt thanks.

The donation process went well, if slowly. The Koriyama center only has two computers for entering new donor information, but we did everything we could to print out information and the questionnaires ahead of time. Out of the 11 people who came to donate blood, about half were able to complete donation. Some people were not able to due to medical history, recent travel, or general ineligibility. In order to ensure blood is collected and distributed safely, they have to be very strict and exceedingly careful. Most people who receive transfusions have weakened immune systems and are particularly vulnerable. Even still, 6 people donating whole blood means that something like 18 lives could be saved! That’s pretty incredible.

It’s my hope to make this a quarterly event in Fukushima, since there are 4 Japan Red Cross blood donation rooms in Fukushima, and quarterly is about how often one can donate. With one event successfully completed and all the complications and challenges worked out, I think they’ll go much more smoothly as time goes on. Recently, I sent completed English materials to the Fukushima JRC office for them to begin reviewing and distributing to the centers in Fukushima for English-speaking donors.

Keep an eye on Facebook to see when the next blood drive event will be (I’m thinking right before spring break, this time in Iwaki)! If you’re interested or have any questions about donating blood in Japan, please feel free to ask me in person, on Facebook, or anywhere! Hope to see you out there with a needle in your arm and a smile on your face.

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