Amina Okueva: “Doctors And Blood Donors Saved My Life. Later, I Became Both A Doctor And A Donor Myself”

Amina Okueva: “Doctors And Blood Donors Saved My Life. Later, I Became Both A Doctor And A Donor Myself”
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Ms.Amina Okueva — a surgeon, a volunteer ATO fighter and a public figure — shared her vision of problems Ukrainian blood donation system has, in terms of another benefit of Kyiv Muslim promoting unpaid blood donation (held at Kyiv Islamic Cultural Centre on September 11, 2015).

Amina knows the situation first-hand, for she had to fight for the patients with vast blood loss many times when a surgeon at Odessa City Hospital. She eagerly gave us an insight into health care system.

How important is the problem of Blood donation from a doctor’s point of view?
Vital! For the science, be any reckoning, couldn't create a medicine fully replacing donors’ blood.

I’ve been working as a polytrauma and gastrointestinal bleeding surgeon after I graduated from the University. Thus, we faced vast blood loss during every shift, and donors’ blood was needed very often.

I often saw life literally sinking from a person with vast blood loss that was impossible to be stopped fast, and that was a terrific spectacle, especially when we could do nothing about it… On the contrary, I saw people come to life after blood transfusion, giving the patient extra time while the surgeons fixed their organs.

How common is the situation when necessary blood type of required Rh can’t be found, or if there’s not enough?
Such problems can arise with rare blood type and Rh combinations. As far as I remember, about 50% of Europeans have O (+/-), A (+/-) and B(+/-) is 20% each, and only 10% have AB. Naturally, Rh has to match as well, but only several percent people of each group have Rh(-). So, for instance, AB Rh(-) is scarce, but at the same time it’s required way more seldom that O Rh(+), for instance.

Things are much simpler when the surgery is planned and everybody has enough time for all the logistic procedures with donors’ blood. But we don’t have much time when an Ambulance brings a dying patient urgently, so it depends on the luck in those situations.

When and how was the first time you faced blood donation issue? Whom did you become first, a donor or a recipient? 
A recipient; it was a long time ago. I had that unpleasant thing called  DIC, Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. To put it simple for non-medicians, it’s a process in a human’s body when blood loses it’s ability of clotting and literally becomes like water. This change is reversible, but in order to reset the clotting system, donor’s blood is a must. And that is perhaps the only case when preserved blood won’t do, and so donors need to be present here and now. I’ve been lucky enough to have the most popular blood type and Rh, so they found donors quickly; many of the hospital staff donated their blood for me. So I survived, and my body recovered with zero consequence from blood loss.

What moved you to becoming a donor yourself?
I can’t say I am a regular donor in the full meaning of this word, but I donated blood from time to time when a patient needed my blood type and there wasn’t any in stock, or there was no time to go and get it. So, when I saw that my blood was vital for someone, I just donated it to that person. I wanted to become a regular donor, but, by force of circumstance, haven’t achieved that goal at the moment.

But you keep donating your blood?
I haven’t done that for a while. But I’m ready to present half a liter of my blood to any person when needed *smiles*.

How often do the doctors raise the topic of blood donation in their immediate environment?
Few people, I suppose, discuss work beyond the workplace, and that is true for any profession. Blood transfusion is a part of doctor’s job, so we do not discuss it very often.  Except for we share our disappointment when we lose a patient because there wasn’t enough donors’ blood or something like that.

Overall, the State pays very little attention to promoting blood donation, and that’s a problem. At the same time, people come in an eyeblink when there are many persons injured in some accidents, shellings, during long fights at the battlefield and so on. It demonstrates that Ukrainian people are non-indifferent, and reveals a high spiritual potential of our nation.

Nevertheless, people need to know that donor's’ blood is needed all the time, even when there are no vast disasters, for we have car accidents, industrial injuries and home accidents; there are many people with cancer and other long-term illnesses, such as ulcer disease, who can face vast blood loss at any time. And all those people are around us! Unfortunately, nobody is granted from finding themselves or their close ones in a situation like that.

How often the ATO fighters need blood transfusion?
Regularly. Most of the ballistic and shell wounds are aligned with vast blood loss, and donor’s blood is needed for an adequate treatment.

Did you donate your blood for your brothers-in-arms?
Not yet. First of all, blood transfusion is a strictly in-hospital procedure, carried out at hospitals only. I contact the wounded fighters only at the first stage, which is medical first aid, right after the injury. Only blood substitutes are allowed at this stage, in order to win time for delivering the person to the hospital. And only there, after all necessary checkups, blood transfusion is permittable. I have a very popular blood and rhesus type, so I haven’t yet faced the urgency to donate it “in field”.

If you were on all the national television right now, what would you say to your compatriots about blood donation? How would you persuade them to become blood donors?
Blood donation, when done right, is not only safe, but also a useful procedure, for the body produces new blood.

Besides, it’s good for both the body and the spirit, for it’s great to think that you share a part of you with someone — someone good, of course *smiles* — and this, God willing, saves their life… and that person mentions you, a stranger who helped them survive, in their prayers for the rest of their life — isn’t that great?

interviewed by Tetyana Evloeva

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