By Malcolm Charles, past president of the Rotary Club of St. Lucia, Saint Lucia
One day while visiting with my mom over lunch, I heard over her portable transistor radio a call for people with Type O positive blood to come to the local hospital to give blood in preparation for a patient surgery later that day.
I asked my mom if she knew my blood type, because I didn’t. But she didn’t know, either. So I drove to the nearest health clinic in her area to determine whether I might be of help and ask what happens if (emergency) blood donors do not come forward or what provisions are in place to collect and store blood in advance.
I learned that the hospitals did not have adequate blood storage facilities, and that they would lose patients if no one came forward with the right blood type. I also learned that there were no budgetary provisions for a blood collection and storage system.
It entered my mind, as president-elect of my Rotary club, to explore some sort of blood collection system. I conferred with the medical establishment in my area, of which the then chief medical officer was a member of my club. I decided to attend the RI Convention in Munich, Germany (June 1987). By providence or sheer coincidence, I was greeted by a display of special purpose vehicles organized by Mercedes Benz, including one that was a mobile blood bank.
To cut a long story short, I collected various brochures, and returning to Saint Lucia, visited with the Mercedes dealer, where my club got a couple quotes and government concessions. We summoned a meeting of the incoming board, and set out plans for a fund raising car raffle. Under the direction of our very able service director, we pounded the pavement across the island for months until we reached the point where we could place an order for Saint Lucia’s first Mobile Blood Bank Service.
The mobile unit was incorporated under the Government Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Rotary, and according to a former chief medical officer for the island, continues to save some 2,000 plus lives a year to this day.
As a Rotarian, I am proud and honored to have been able to make a difference through Rotary to the many persons in our island community.
Learn more about other ways Rotary clubs are saving the lives of mothers and children