Incidental Blood Donor Transformed into a Passionate Blood Donor & Advocate

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. 

The fear of missing out prompted Hafez Sorouri Zanjani to donate blood at a blood drive at school in 2017. Upon learning more about the blood donation process on posters and from employees at the Bloodbank, Hafez found joy and meaning in giving blood, and became a regular blood donor. When a friend survived a high-risk surgery due to blood transfusions, it reaffirmed his commitment to the lifesaving cause of making regular blood donations. Hafez, a recipient of the Youthphoria award at World Blood Donor Day 2024 for making more than 20 blood donations before turning 25, encourages his family and friends to donate blood.

"If there are inadequate blood supplies, we never know if the day may come when the doctor might have to make that heartbreaking decision not to save us or our loved ones. Healthy blood stocks ensure that there will never be a situation where doctors are compelled to choose who gets the blood based on the limited blood supplies, and those who require blood transfusions can get them," said Hafez Sorouri Zanjani, 25, a Youthphoria award recipient.

His outlook serves as a salient reminder of the significant role that blood donors play in enhancing resilience in our community. 

Half-Hearted Blood Donation Experiences

Recounting his maiden attempt at donating blood when a blood drive was held at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in 2017, Hafez acknowledged that he was driven not by the desire to save lives, but by the fear of missing out. 

"I decided to donate blood together with the majority of my class. I succumbed due to the fear of missing out. Several classmates were rejected for various reasons. But I managed to donate blood, and it was a good first experience," he said. 

When he was in the National Service from 2018 to 2020, he donated blood at regular blood donation drives, not because he wanted to save lives, but because it gave him the excuse to leave the camp. 

"Initially, I merely went as an excuse to leave the camp!" he quipped.

Embracing Blood Donation as a Lifelong Mission

Yet, his half-hearted blood donations transformed into his lifelong mission when he learnt about the blood donation process from the collateral and employees at the blood drives. Since then, he has found joy and derived intrinsic fulfilment by donating blood.

"However, at the blood donation centre, I gleaned a better understanding of the blood donation process through posters and conversations with the employees. After I was Operationally Ready (ORD), I continued embracing regular blood donations as part of my lifestyle. I found meaning and joy in donating blood, as my blood can help someone's health or save someone's life. Blood donation enables me to contribute to the betterment of my community, in my own way," said Hafez, who is currently pursuing his third year of undergraduate studies at the Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. 

A friend's high-risk surgery underscored and reinforced the significance of blood donation. 

"My friend survived a high-risk surgery through blood transfusions. It dawned on me that blood donors had contributed to saving my friend’s life (without them even realising it). I was in awe of all the blood donors. I realised that there might have been times when my blood was used in a transfusion that might have improved someone's condition," said Hafez. 

Navigating Stumbling Blocks with an Indomitable Spirit

Despite his innate desire to save lives, Hafez navigated some hurdles along his blood donation journey.

Some of his attempts to donate blood were stymied and met with disappointment when he could not meet the minimum iron concentration criteria. Yet, he took it in his stride and remained undaunted. He would try again the following month. 

"It is challenging for me to meet the stringent blood donation criteria. But I welcome it as it compels me to keep fit and healthy. I monitor my health in a way I would not have had if I was not a regular blood donor," Hafez said.

Hafez embraces a disciplined approach when it comes to blood donation. He plans his life around blood donation and adheres to his blood donation schedule. When he could not meet the appointed date for the blood donation due to illness or conflicting schedules, he would promptly reschedule it. He would skip the gym for a few days following his blood donation.

His discipline paid off. At this year's World Blood Donor Day 2024, Hafez received the Youthphoria award at World Blood Donor Day 2024, held at Marina Bay Sands on 29 June, for making 20 blood donations before turning 25. 

"I have never donated blood for recognition or medals. But I am glad there is a way for us blood donors to be acknowledged," he said. 

Advocating Blood Donation Among Family & Friends

Currently, blood donors constitute 1.8 percent of the population. Of these, only 15 percent are youth donors. These statistics are a concern because there would be a heightened demand for blood, given the burgeoning ageing population. 

"While the total donor pool has edged up slightly in the past few years, there is a worrying decline in young donors," he said.

Beyond donating blood, Hafez has also inspired his friends to give the gift of life. 

"I have always encouraged others to donate blood. When I go for my blood donation appointment, I invite my family and friends to join me and donate blood. Some were fearful about blood donation because of the needle, while some were not eligible. My brother and some friends are regular blood donors themselves. Occasionally, I would meet my former National Service (NS) friends for blood donation and dinner," Hafez said. 

Dispelling the Fear of Needles

He hopes to enhance awareness and dispel the concerns of potential blood donors by encouraging them to take the intrepid step to venture into their unchartered waters by donating blood. 

He noted that some potential blood donors have held back their blood donations because of their fear of needles.

"Blood donation may appear intimidating given the needle. I hope needle fears don't hinder people from donating blood. The employees at the Bloodbanks assuage my fears through detailed explanations of the process, and that knowledge calmed me down. You can also distract yourself by watching a video or leveraging the stress balls provided during the blood donation. I would recommend bringing a friend along to your blood donation, as that enables you to let go of your fears while feeling supported in your blood donation," he said. 

Encouraging More People to Become Regular Blood Donors

He hopes to inspire more potential blood donors to step forward to donate blood and embrace regular blood donations as part of their lifestyles.

"Giving blood is a chance to be a hero anonymously. You can save up to three lives in just 45 minutes to an hour! Every blood type is required, especially negative blood types. The pool of Rh-negative blood donors is small. If you have Rh-negative blood, please donate. Your blood donation can save a cancer patient or an infant. Blood donation is safe and easy. Most people find it more comfortable than anticipated. As a regular donor, you'll help ensure a stable blood supply for those in need in Singapore. It's a simple act with a powerful impact," Hafez said.

Though he started as an incidental blood donor, Hafez has found joy and has derived an intrinsic sense of fulfilment from blood donations. Now, Hafez perceives blood donation as his lifelong mission to contribute positively to the community. The knowledge that blood donors saved his friend's life reaffirmed his dedication to the lifesaving cause. With his disciplined approach to scheduling blood donations, he exemplifies the spirit of giving and inspires other youth to follow in his footsteps. 

As we commemorated World Blood Donor Day in June, we honoured Hafez and other blood donors for their selfless and tireless efforts to regular blood donations. Their collective efforts leave a profound impact on the lives of the blood recipients, ensuring that anyone in need can receive a blood transfusion. 

By Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications

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