Thursday, February 2, 2023

Want to be a Blood Monk?

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Join a noble cause and become a voluntary blood donor using a mobile application by this same name. This initiative by two Ahmedabad-based entrepreneurs serves to fill in where blood banks can’t

By Kaushik Joshi

Blood is not thicker than water. This was proved by two Ahmedabad entrepreneurs, who launched a social initiative called Blood Monk, which is an app that functions like a blood bank. However, unlike a regular blood bank, it doesn’t need any institutional set-up and runs on auto-pilot. Blood Monk was set up by KetanRaval, CEO of IT firm Let’s Nurture, and AmeetPanchal, a social media consultant.

The need to set up a blood bank devoid of bureaucratic hurdles and other interference was felt because hospitals often reject blood from regular blood banks and insist on fresh blood. Some, says Panchal, even insist on specific blood groups for replacement of the blood they supply, leaving patients’ relatives helpless. Raval says: “It is also likely that those with influence prevail upon blood banks not to part with certain blood group units which they would need in an emergency.” Also, he says that in cases of thalassemia patients, blood transfusion cases and some cancer surgeries, doctors insist on fresh blood for the patient. “That apart, negative blood groups are rare and often blood banks don’t have their supply. It is in such critical cases that Blood Monk can be summoned. We have registered donors who can be contacted using the app,” says Raval.

Incidentally, the moniker Blood Monk was chosen by Raval, who says that “anyone who donates blood is a monk since it is the noblest act one can do as a human.” The idea to start it germinated when Panchal’s uncle was seriously injured four years ago while working on a lathe in a factory. “We were in need of 20 bottles of blood and it was quite daunting. Somehow, we collected the requi-red blood with the help of friends and relatives. That’s when I proposed the idea of Blood Monk to Ketan.”

Being an IT expert, Raval created the mobile app and a website for Blood Monk. Presently, it has its presence in six cities in Gujarat—Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Meh-sana, Bhuj and Bhavnagar—and Mumbai, Pune and Sangli in Maharashtra.

But both insist they have a long way to go. It helps that they are active on social media. Panchal, for example, is an avid tweeter and claims he is followed by NarendraModi, President Obama and GulPanag. A measure of their success can be gauged by the happiness Panchal felt when he learnt that a patient’s relatives had received more than 100 calls from Blood Monk donors within an hour of sending out an SOS for B+ blood.

The Blood Monk app works seamlessly to get blood as fast as possible for those needing it. It is supported by both the Android and the Apple Operating System. Besides a dedicated website, Blood Monk also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Initiatives like the Blood Monk have an edge over blood banks, simply because they don’t charge for the blood units or expect a replacement for them. Such noble causes can, therefore, be replicated all over the country.
In New Mumbai, the mother of one Prashant Gupta was admitted to Tata Memo-rial Hospital as she was suffering from multiple myeloma (tumor in the bone marrow). She appealed for fresh platelets after a stem cell transplant from anyone having A+, A- or AB blood. Blood Monk made this appeal through its App, Facebook page and Twitter and the patient received timely help and survived the critical phase.

Surprisingly, Raval says that often they don’t even know who came to the rescue of whom or who the donor and beneficiary were. “In a network like this, our presence is not required. It works on its own through messages. We don’t even have an office for Blood Monk.”

For this duo, philanthropy is not new. They have been helping the poor for some years now. Besides distributing text books and clothes to poor children, they have also given away woollen clothes and blankets to pavement dwellers.

And in an effort to smoothen out things, Raval is thinking of better logistics. Sometimes, he says, a registered donor may find it difficult to reach the hospital where he has to donate blood or he can come only at a time convenient to him.

“We are, therefore, thinking of having our own mobile van with a driver and a part-time doctor so that the team can reach the donor, collect the blood and reach it to the hospital concerned.” he says.
Worldwide, the supply of donated blood is woefully short of the demand. Blood Monk tries to appeal to people to donate. Jose Tinto, who donates blood regularly, says: “Sometime back, I donated blood to a patient who met with an accident and needed major surgery. The look of gratitude which I saw on the faces of the patient’s relatives is something I will never forget.”

And in what is a leg-up for these two entrepreneurs, their social initiative was recognized by the Indian Red Cross Society and WHO, both of which jointly released a documentary film on Blood Monk on World Blood Donors Day on June 14, 2014.

Hopefully, this will spawn more such initiatives for the good of humanity.

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