Only 4.3 percent of Israelis donate blood

Biggest blood recipient meets donor who saved her life

blood drive 298.88 (photo credit: courtesy)
blood drive 298.88
(photo credit: courtesy)
Hili Avni, a 32-year-old woman who received infusions of 1,000 blood units that saved her from a rare condition that appeared 10 days after delivering her first baby, celebrated International Blood Donor Day on Monday by meeting some of those who donated pints to her. Magen David Adom organized the event at its Blood Center at Tel Hashomer for Avni, who holds the country's record for the largest number of blood units ever received by one individual. She was always healthy, but after delivering her daughter Noya nine months ago, she suddenly returned to the hospital with a high fever, weakness and vomiting. Blood tests showed she had only 12,000 red blood cells in the test tube instead of the normal 150,000. Additional tests showed that she developed post-transfusion purpura (PTP), a rare complication associated with transfusion of blood components that contain platelet antigens. The condition, which occurs in one out of 200,000 transfusions, can cause brain hemorrhage and can be fatal. There have been only 12 PTP patients in Israel during the past five years. Among the donors present to congratulate her was Dvora Frankel, who over the years has given 180 blood and plasma units to MDA and is the Israeli female blood donor champion. Frankel can no longer donate because of her age, but she has established a family tradition, and her two sons Yossi and Adi are regular donors. Even her grandson Binyamin is old enough and has given blood. "I call on the Israeli public to come and donate in large numbers and feel the same wonderful feeling I have - of saving life," said Frankel. But MDA announced that only 4.3 percent of Israelis donate blood. Three-quarters of the donors are young people aged 17 to 40. The share of Israel Defense Forces personnel has declined to 23% of all blood donations (partly because they no longer get the day off after donating). Only a quarter of donors are women, not only because some of afraid of needles but because women in their fertile years tend to be anemic. Last year, 290,000 people donated blood; the total is just a 0.8% increase over the figure in 2006. Avni told Frankel that every two days during her two months in hospital, her blood plasma was completely replaced to remove the harmful antigens from her circulation. Her family not only took care of the newborn baby, but also campaigned for funds and blood donations at their workplaces and over the Internet. Frankel and other donors who saved Avni enthused over the baby, who attended the ceremony. "I always donated blood and knew it was important," said Avni. "But after needing blood desperately myself, I really understand what it means, that a blood donation can save a life." At present, Avni cannot give blood, but she looks forward to the day when she can resume her contributions.