By Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty
(Note: Sergeant McCarty recently travelled to Lusaka, Zambia, to support the presentation of the Zambian President’s Medal for Gallantry to Air Force Colonel Keith Andrews, who saved two Zambian women who’d fallen in the Zambezi River, just feet before a more than 300-foot drop at Victoria Falls.)
While in Zambia writing about the selfless act of a fellow Airman and visiting local HIV/AIDS clinics, I was inspired to find something I could do to make a difference. The people are so friendly and their country is peaceful and beautiful. I wanted to honor them and give some small token of my gratitude.
After seeing a blood donation photo of the Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Michael Koplovsky, I knew that was exactly what I could do.
I immediately asked about the possibility of donating at the Zambia National Blood Transfusion Service (ZNBTS) at University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.
I went through an initial screening to ensure my blood would be safe to use and I was in good health to donate. After a short moment of worry that my malaria medication might throw things off, I was relieved to hear it wouldn’t be a problem.
The nurse phlebotomist who’d screened me went on to explain the simple process of how blood is collected.
David Chama, the manager, further explained that Zambia has a main ZNBTS office, nine regional centers and 132 blood banks. ZNBTS receives funding from Americans through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The program partnered U.S. and Zambian governments to train staff and improve transportation of blood as well as to ensure access to safe, affordable and effective blood transfusion services for Zambians.
Most patients in Zambia who need blood transfusions are children under 5 and women suffering from pregnancy complications. Blood is also used for patients who’ve lost a lot of blood due to accidents or surgical operations.
Nine minutes and 48 seconds after the needle entered my arm I was done. In less than 30 minutes total, I had given just under a pint of blood that could potentially help save a life, just as the rest of Americans do through the PEPFAR program. And although my act didn’t require much bravery, I felt proud that my small deed could help at least one Zambian in need and that I had given back to the community that was so welcoming to me during my stay.
Blog also at: http://www.africom.mil
See related article: Air Force Colonel Receives Presidential Honors in Zambia
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