NORMAN Kessoon’s family members are looking forward to returning to the Blood Bank tomorrow, eager to donate blood for use by the 56 year-old with kidney problems and a raft of other medical problems.
Attempts to give blood were unsuccessful on Monday when one family member and her friend were turned away because they live in St Catherine, which has the largest number of COVID-19 cases, mostly linked to the Alorica call centre.
The distraught family said they felt they were being unfairly stigmatised because of the receptionist’s reaction to their address.
“When I told [the receptionist] my address was Spanish Town, St Catherine… I could see that she was fearful in her eyes and disgusted, to be frank,” said Samantha Kessoon, Norman’s niece. “She said to me, ‘Sorry Miss, but we are no longer taking blood from St Catherine residents at this time.’ So I looked on her and I said, ‘Why? Is it because of COVID?’. And she said yes, and that she was sorry.”
But in a tweet yesterday, Blood Bank Director Dr Alisha Tucker explained that blood was not being accepted from communities under quarantine, but there would be no problem accepting donations after the quarantine is lifted.
“While we understand that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and that there have been no suspected or reported cases of transfusion-transmitted COVID-19 to date, we must consider the safety of the nation’s blood supply and balance that with the demand for blood at this time,” said Dr Tucker. “It is not only about the blood donation process, but also about safeguarding our staff and the facility. The Government of Jamaica [GOJ] has quarantined parts of Jamaica based on the number of cases and the likelihood of spread. Once the quarantine is lifted, it would mean the GOJ no longer deems that area as high risk and as such donors would then be welcomed. We are now taking donors from Cornpiece in Clarendon, as well as Bull Bay in St Andrew, places that were previously quarantined.”
Samantha Kessoon welcomed the news that she would soon be able to donate blood to her uncle.
“I’m very happy, because the entire family has been in panic mode since we went on Monday [and were told we could not donate] so we are grateful. So as soon as the quarantine is lifted [on Friday] we will definitely be there to contribute blood.”
St Catherine was placed under lockdown in mid-April as the Government tried to contain the ripple effects of a large cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to employees of the business process outsourcing firm Alorica. The lockdown is expected to end tomorrow morning.
Today is 14 days since Norman Kessoon was admitted to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), and was said to be emotionally drained by the experience.
“The last time I spoke to him he was literally in tears, saying that he needs blood for them to perform surgery on him,” said Samantha. “The doctor says his kidneys are badly damaged, but right now his blood count is extremely low, so I guess that’s what they need the blood for. They’re going to put him on dialysis or something, so they say as much family member that can should just come and donate blood for him because it’s urgent.”
Yesterday, his daughter Christina told the Jamaica Observer that after being told all family members between 18 and 70 years old should give blood, if possible, about six family members were prepared to do so.
The issue of stigmatisation of COVID-19 patients and persons from communities with confirmed cases has been a sore point for months. The death of Jodian Fearon, allegedly refused medical care because she was suspected of having the disease, pushed the issue to the forefront of national attention earlier this week.
Yesterday, Samantha urged the Blood Bank to guide its staff on how to effectively communicate with clients, as Monday’s incident had made a stressful situation even more difficult.
“[The receptionist] didn’t explain to me that once the quarantine was lifted we would be able to donate, because I would have easily rescheduled for another day,” she said. “I think they should coach these people as to how to deal with the public. If you are going to give a statement, explain; break everything down in layman terms so everybody will be able to understand.”
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