MDA holds blood drive among tourists

Tourists drafted to restore blood supplies due to shortage of Israeli donors

olmert gives blood 298 (photo credit: GPO)
olmert gives blood 298
(photo credit: GPO)
With many Israelis out of the country or off work and too busy enjoying themselves during the Pessah vacation to donate blood, Magen David Adom is trying to make foreign tourists feel good by rolling up their sleeves and leaving some part of themselves behind. They don't get a year's blood insurance for themselves and their family like local blood donors, but they do receive appreciation, an Israeli flag and a symbolic pin. MDA blood services director Eilat Shinar said Sunday that a recent campaign for blood donations to restore supplies that drop below the red line during holidays did not succeed. While MDA has not yet given up on vacationing Israelis, it has now targeted visitors from abroad. "We had some donations a few years ago with a small program conducted with the Jewish Agency called Sharing Life, but now we want to arouse interest again. The tourist blood donation campaign begins on Monday at the David's Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem," said Shinar. "Every major Jewish holiday, there is a decline in blood donations. It happens from Rosh Hashana through Succot and again during Pessah and even through Shavuot. People go abroad; but when they remain here they don't have blood donations as a top priority. Soldiers provide about 30 percent of all blood supplies, but during the holidays many units are sent home too. Generally, we get a lot of blood donated during organized events at large workplaces, but many businesses and organizations have taken off for the Pessah holiday." Shinar will be ready to collect blood from foreigners at a ceremony to be held at the Tel Hashomer MDA Blood Services Center in honor of Gillian and Irving Carter, Everard and Mina Goodman and Hillary and Abraham Jaffe of England, who are donating two expensive and ultramodern bloodmobiles and one ambulance on Monday. But there is a problem - no one who lived or visited England between 1980 and 1996 can donate blood in Israel because Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human equivalent of mad cow disease) was at its height during those years, and a few people were infected then by getting blood donations from people exposed to the disorder. Asked whether it was in bad taste to ask foreign tourists to donate blood when Israelis were reluctant to give, Shinar said, "I don't see a moral problem. It's a positive experience for them. Many people want to do something for Israel when they visit. Anyone who is healthy and between the ages of 18 and 65 can donate blood. You can be rich or poor, but you can give. "Offering donors a gift or money for donating would be a nice idea, but it is potentially dangerous. If you give donors a gift that is worth something, there is the possibility that they will not tell the whole truth about their health in order to get the gift." Meanwhile, detailed information for Israelis and foreigners to donate blood during the coming week may be obtained by calling (03) 530-0400 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Bloodmobiles will be on duty at large shopping malls and central bus stations around the country.