Last Sunday I went to interview Mr Azhar . He lives in downtown Multan. I had met him on facebook. When I reached his home, he warmly welcomed me. He is a tall, handsome and well-built person. He offered me tea and I started the interview after exchanging with him customary greetings. During the interview, he switched on his laptop and showed me snaps of his social work. He has attended workshops and training session on social work abroad. He remembers that once during an educational tour in the United Arab Emirates, he had to take an emergency flight home as a result of the sudden death of his father. When I asked him to tell me more about his past, he sobbed his heart out.
He was born in a poor family. When he was a child, he would see medicines on the bedside of her mother. He would ask his mother why she took so many pills. His mother had epilepsy. In epilepsy, a person has recurrent fits or seizures. As a child he would get nervous and frustrated when he would see his mother experience sudden epileptic seizures. Thoughts and fears would surround him when he would look at her convulsions, twitching, blinking and jerking movements during the fits. At times, she would fall down as a result of an intense epileptic seizure. Headaches, emotional stress, confusion and sleep deprivation added to her misery. He would remain restless until a seizure ended and she recovered. He would listen to his father and family elders talk about her diseases, cure, doctors opinions and brain surgeries. Later, one of his elder sisters was also diagnosed with epilepsy. ‘In this world, as a child, suffering was the second thing I encountered, the first being my mother’s love’, he says. Now, he is forty-years-old but his old mother and sister still suffer from epilepsy. He married a beautiful school teacher. It was a love marriage. But, soon their love reached a period of trials and tribulations. She gave birth to three stillborn babies. These threestill born babies made his life more tragic. This constant exposure to illness and suffering influenced his life deeply.
'Every cloud has a silver lining' goes the saying. It means that there is always a comforting aspect of a sad situation. We regard diseases and disabilities as misfortunes. They appear to undermine and destroy life. But, at times, sights of diseases and disabilities inspire people with constructive roles. His mother’s disease created in his heart sympathy for people suffering from diseases and disabilities. He began to idealize philanthropists like Abdul Sattar Edhi Adul Sattar, Hakim Muhammad Said, Mother Teresa and Ansar Burney. His mother’s brain problems created in him an interest in human psychology. He did his Masters in Psychology and decided to embark on a journey of helping people suffering from diseases and disabilities. Now, he works as a blood donor recruiter professional for a charity NGO.
A blood donor recruiter is a person who encourages others to donate blood. Blood donor recruiters schedule blood donation activities and play an important role in the transfusion of blood and blood banking industry.When asked why he decided to become donor recruiters, he said:
‘One day, my neighbour came and asked me to donate blood for his daughter suffering from Thalassemia. When I went to hospital with him, I saw his daughter. Her pale face told me how much blood she needed. Since then, I have been persuading people to donate generously for children suffering from Thalassemia, Hemophilia and other diseases. So my career as a blood donor recruiter began with a blood donation. Blood is a unique thing. It has no substitute. It saves life and a person who donates it is a life saver. So, I decided to be a part of life saving efforts. This job has given me an opportunity to be helpful in saving thousands of lives’.
As a blood donor recruiter, his objective is to ensure that safe blood is available to patients in need of blood transfusion treatment. He works on daily basis. He reaches out to prospective donors. He contacts educational institutes, labour organizations, political organizations, social organizations, cultural clubs, and trade unions , takes their permission and reaches there with mobile blood-collection unit.
A mobile collection unit has a blodd donor recruiter, a doctor, a nurse and three assistants. He talks to the students and employees and informs them about the importance of donating blood. He motivates people with his lectures, promotional material and AV aids. He quotes facts and figures from WHO reports about the increasing need of blood donations in the world. An increase in number of diseases has brought an increase in the demand of blood supply in the world. Millions of people in the world rely on unpaid blood donations. He tells them that blood is vital in emergencies , surgical operations and in the treatment of diseases like cancer, blood cancer, Dangue virus, leukemia, hemophilia, thalassaemia and bleeding disorders. He tells them that the problem is that blood cannot be manufactured in factories and that blood donations can come from human beings only. Animal blood cannot be used for humans. He tells them that, being a healthy person, he himself does not need their blood but pale, weak and bony children back in the hospital do need their donations of blood.He explains them how innocent lives can be saved if people are willing to make unpaid blood donations. He educates them about basic eligibility requirements , donation process and other issues related to blood donation.
Students and employees who are underweight are not eligible to donate their blood. He asks them to bring their friends. Talking about the difficulties of recruitment, he says that ‘every year, around 5000 babies are born with hemophilia and thalassaemia here in our country. We need unpaid blood for these babies. People don’t volunteer. They don’t know their blood groups. They appear to be scared of needles. They have misconceptions about donating blood, we have to tell them that there is no health hazard at all in giving blood’. He educates them about the safety of donating blood. He does not pressurize people to make blood donations. He gives them time to think and decide. His face lights up when he sees people saying ‘yes’ to his call for blood donation.
Those who volunteer for blood donations have to undergo tests which check the volunteers for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Malaria and Aids. Their blood groups are identified. As a result of these tests, the heads of the institutes and organizations are informed of health of their students and employees. He talks about the grim situation with regard to health standards in the country . He explains that ‘if 500 people volunteer for blood donations, we are able to get around 30 to 40 blood bags. It means out of 500 hundred volunteers around 300 people are medically unfit for blood donations. College girls have more health issues than college boys with regard to their eligibility for making blood donations. Most of them are underweight and not fit for blood donations’.
When he returns from his recruitment activities and camps, he submits the collected blood for processing and quality assurance. He has not only to recruit blood donors but also has to retain them.He keeps a record of organizations participating in the blood donation programmes and prepares reports of his donor recruitment activities. He encourages donors to donate regularly. He keeps in touch with donors, actively builds relationships with them through emails and text messages.
Despite witnessing battalions of pains and suffering in life , Mr. Azhar remains exuberant and enthusiastic about life. He and his wife have remained patient at the hardships and the birth of still born babies, now, they have been blessed with two healthy children whom they loves very much. He says that when he returns with bags of blood, he plays with the woebegone children at the NGO hospital. These children are suffering from hemophilia and thalassaemia and are undergoing blood transfusion treatment. "Spending time with these children makes me forget all my tiredness and worries. It gives me 'spiritual bliss' that fills my heart with energy that surmounts the sorrows of life."