The Blood Donor with Big Veins & Bigger Heart!

In commemoration of World Blood Donor Day, we pay tribute to the Champion Blood Donors who have selflessly embraced regular blood donations as a part of their lifestyles.

For Zakir Bin Isahak, 56, what started "as going with the flow to help others" through blood donation during his National Service Days more than 30 years ago, transformed into a lifelong mission to save lives. Having donated blood more than 200 times, Zakir was a Medal for Life recipient at World Blood Donor Day 2024. His full-time career and family commitments have not deterred him from this monthly ritual. His blood donation has become more regular with age, thanks to his supportive employer, who enabled him to donate blood on weekdays. When asked about his secret to donating blood regularly? He said, "When major incidents or calamities occur, several people donate blood. But peace-time, there is an equal need.”

Zakir Bin Isahak's blood donation journey came about serendipitously during his National Service days in his early 20s, in 1988 and 1990. 

"I went to a blood drive with my platoon mates, and donated blood as everyone else did the same!" he quipped. 

But he believes his disposition-his innate desire to help others was a catalyst that inspired him to donate blood, as his way of contributing back to society. 

"Blood donation is the easiest way to help others. I was taught from a young age that if I saved a person, I would save humanity. Through blood donation, I contribute back to society. The simple act of giving blood could mean the difference between life and death for someone. It feels good to help others. I don’t overthink this. I do it because there is a need," said Zakir. 

He highlights that blood is indispensable both in times of accidents and peacetime.  

"When a major incident or a calamity occurs, people donate blood. But there is an equal need in peacetime,” said Zakir, reflecting his pragmatic and down-to-earth disposition.

Making the Switch to Apheresis Donations

Zakir fondly recollected that when he embarked on his blood donation journey, he started donating whole blood quarterly. 

He switched to monthly apheresis donations when the nurses informed him that his big veins made him suitable for the donation of platelets. Zakir readily agreed. 

“Years back, apheresis donations used to take three hours. Now, apheresis donations typically take about 45 minutes," said Zakir. 

Nurses Became Friends

Over three decades of blood donation, Zakir, now aged 56, has forged a close rapport with the nurses, whom he regards as friends or siblings. Their interactions have transformed into joyful memories. He is assured that he is well-taken care of at the Bloodbank.

"The nurses are caring and motherly and take good care of me. Years ago, they comforted me and even scratched my arms! Now, the nurses still care for me as they did years ago. They know my blood donation needs and would give me blankets, ensuring I am comfortable. Their care and respect provided me with the assurance of my safety. They are akin to my friends or siblings. I look forward to my blood donation every month as their dedicated care motivates me to return," Zakir said. 

Supportive Employer

Zakir has embraced blood donations as part of his monthly routine. 

A Senior Estate Executive in the housing sector, Zakir is grateful for his employer's support of his blood donation on a weekday. 

"By donating blood on a weekday, I can spend time with my family on weekends," he said. 

Overcoming Challenges to Donate Blood

In his three decades of blood donation, he was rejected twice as his iron concentration levels did not meet the required criteria. Yet, he remained undeterred. Zakir took those setbacks in his stride. He focused on positive thoughts, perceiving the rejections were reality checks for him. This bore testimony to his unwavering dedication to blood donation. 

"The rejections underscored that though one may look and feel healthy, one may not be fully healthy," he said.

He perceives that regular blood donations are a reality check on his health. This motivates him to keep himself healthy and primed for each blood donation.  

Blood donation has become a cornerstone of Zakir's life.

When asked how long he plans to continue as a regular blood donor, he quipped with a big smile, “By donating blood regularly, I ensure that people in need would have the chance to survive. Why should I ever stop? Unless they ask me to stop due to the iron count or medical conditions."

Zakir's unwavering dedication did not go unnoticed. Zakir received the Medal for Life at World Blood Donor Day 2024, held at Marina Bay Sands on 29 June, for making more than 200 blood donations. 

"I am happy that my efforts are recognised. I hope this will inspire others, particularly the youth, to join me in this noble cause," said Zakir. 

Dispelling Misconceptions to Urge People to Donate Blood

Zakir was taken aback to learn that only 1.8 percent of the Singapore population donates blood. It is a salient point, as the small pool of blood donors bears the responsibility of meeting the blood needs of the entire nation. 

He encourages more people to embrace blood donation as part of their daily lives. 

“If you donate blood, you save lives. Your blood can be someone's lifeline," Zakir said.

Zakir hopes to dispel misconceptions about blood donation. He is cognisant that some people are fearful of needles. 

"Don't worry, the blood donation process is almost painless. The experience feels good!" he quipped.

Some people may also believe that blood donation may weaken one's body, as the body loses blood.

"If you are weak or your body is unfit for blood donation, the nurses will let you know and you will not be eligible for blood donation. Blood donation does not have adverse effects on health. Our bodies will replenish the blood within a few days. I resume my usual routine within a few days following each blood donation," Zakir said.

On a lighter note, he shared, "After my blood donation, I would enjoy refreshments at the cafeteria near the blood donation centre. It has become much nicer with time!" 

Spreading the Word about Blood Donation

Zakir has gone the extra mile to encourage his nephew, friends and colleagues to embrace this lifesaving cause of donating blood. He is resolute in his tenacity to spread the word about blood donation. 

He recounted an experience where he and his colleague would email colleagues about the date and venue of their blood donation to raise awareness of blood donation. 

"We addressed colleagues' queries, shared our experiences, dispelled their misconceptions about blood donation and encouraged them to donate blood," he said.

He and his colleagues' efforts to raise awareness of blood donation, spoke volumes about their passion for the cause. 

Zakir believes that continuous efforts to raise awareness and encouragement at schools or offices will encourage more people to give. 

The story of Zakir, a chilled-out and happy-go-lucky blood donor, is uplifting. It reminds us of the interconnectedness of humanity. Zakir's unwavering dedication and selfless giving provide a lifeline to those in need, making a profound difference in the blood recipients' lives and their families. Besides saving the lives of accident survivors, Zakir and other blood donors sustain the lives of those who require regular blood transfusions. Someone's loved one is still around because the blood donors sacrificed their time to donate blood. 

Besides exemplifying the spirit of kindness and compassion through regular blood donations, blood donors also go beyond the call of duty to dispel misconceptions about blood donation, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps to join this lifesaving mission. Their collective efforts bring hope and strength to blood recipients and their families, embodying the lifeblood of humanity. 

By Abhishek Chauhan, Volunteer
Copyedited by Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications

Inspired? Donate blood.