SAV­ING LIVES one pint at a time

Destiny - - Advertorial -

This is the story about a one-of-a-kind brand. A brand that has an im­mense re­spon­si­bil­ity. A brand that plays an in­te­gral role in sav­ing lives in South Africa. A brand that’s cru­cial to fill­ing South Africa’s blood banks. This is the story of the South African Na­tional Blood Ser­vice.

SANBS is a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion (NPO) re­spon­si­ble for col­lect­ing, pro­cess­ing and dis­tribut­ing blood across South Africa. Every year it’s faced with the mam­moth re­spon­si­bil­ity of meet­ing the coun­try’s de­mand for blood, de­spite un­ex­pected dips in sup­ply.

MEET SANBS’S STYLISH BRAND AM­BAS­SADOR: Gert-Jo­han Coet­zee. Blood type: A+

Gert-Jo­han Coet­zee needs lit­tle in­tro­duc­tion. A fash­ion de­signer to the stars, he’s dressed the likes of Min­nie Dlamini, Bo­nang Matheba and Pearl Thusi. His women’s and bridal wear is fea­tured reg­u­larly on run­ways around the coun­try and he re­cently added a kid’s wear range to his reper­toire, much to the ex­cite­ment of lo­cal moms.

However, over and above his tal­ent, he’s com­mit­ted to us­ing his work to spread pos­i­tive mes­sages – which is why be­com­ing the SANBS’s brand am­bas­sador was a per­fect fit.

On fash­ion that mat­ters…

“I’ve always loved fash­ion with a con­science and a pur­pose. There’s no bet­ter fit than us­ing my de­sign skills to cre­ate aware­ness for some­thing im­por­tant, like blood do­na­tion.”

On his role as am­bas­sador…

“I’m here to help spread the gospel about the im­por­tance of do­nat­ing blood. That’s what this is all about – and it’s the only rea­son I’m in­volved. I want to help cre­ate aware­ness of how nec­es­sary it is and how easy it is for us, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, to save lives.”

On what his am­bas­sador­ship means to him…

“For me, it’s a so­cial con­science. It’s a way of giv­ing back, be­ing in­volved and sav­ing lives.”

On the work of the SANBS…

“The work of the SANBS is vi­tally im­por­tant. It’s lit­er­ally the life­line of SA. I salute the work it’s do­ing and hope it con­tin­ues to save more lives. I urge ev­ery­one out there to do­nate blood!”

SILUNGILE MLAMBO (39), Chief Mar­ket­ing Of­fi­cer. Blood type: AB+

Mlambo’s been with the SANBS for four years. Her role is to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the im­por­tance of the SANBS and blood do­na­tion. “Our pur­pose is to save pa­tients’ lives. This is our rai­son d’être. The SANBS lit­er­ally takes the lives of South Africans into its own hands. We are con­stantly work­ing to­wards our vi­sion of be­ing ‘the cor­ner­stone of health ser­vices in South Africa, through the gift of life’. My role is to en­cour­age peo­ple to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of do­nat­ing blood and, ul­ti­mately, give the gift of life them­selves.

“When we think of blood do­na­tions be­ing used, we tend to think of peo­ple get­ting trans­fu­sions after road ac­ci­dents or dur­ing hospi­tal op­er­a­tions. Both of these sce­nar­ios in­deed ex­ist and use a cer­tain amount of avail­able stock. But the re­al­ity’s more com­plex. A very large amount of the blood do­nated is bro­ken up into its con­stituent parts to cre­ate life-sav­ing treat­ments for a range of conditions – can­cer and di­a­betes, to name just two. One unit of blood can ac­tu­ally save three lives when it’s used in this way.”

She says gov­ern­ment pays for the blood used in pub­lic hos­pi­tals and med­i­cal aids cover pa­tients in pri­vate ones. “The price isn’t only for the blood, but for the ser­vice,” she adds. “However, we never deny any­one blood.”

She says most blood goes to women dur­ing child­birth. For this rea­son, it’s a cor­ner­stone of the health sys­tem, as many of these women wouldn’t oth­er­wise sur­vive.

SIEMI PRITHVI RAJ (46), Senior Na­tional Man­ager. Blood type: B+

With over two decades be­hind her at the SANBS, Raj main­tains a passion for her role. She’s re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion col­lects enough blood to ser­vice pa­tient needs. The SANBS, she says, gives peo­ple a se­cond chance when a trans­fu­sion is the only way to save their life.

She stresses the im­por­tance of us­ing blood which is safe and free of in­fec­tion. Donors’ blood goes through a rig­or­ous test­ing process, which in­cludes nu­cleic am­pli­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy (NAT). “We were the first coun­try in the world to im­ple­ment in­di­vid­ual do­na­tion NAT test­ing,” says Raj.

She ex­plains that there’s a win­dow pe­riod dur­ing which a per­son can be­come in­fected with HIV, but it isn’t de­tectable in tests. “NAT test­ing re­duces that pe­riod, so we’ve man­aged to pick up hun­dreds of cases where donors could have trans­mit­ted their in­fec­tions,” she says. “We tell the donors about their sta­tus and of­fer confidential coun­selling ser­vices.”

DR JACKIE THOM­SON (45), Med­i­cal Di­rec­tor. Blood type: AB+

As a hae­ma­tol­o­gist (a spe­cial­ist in blood dis­or­ders), Thom­son’s treated pa­tients for over 20 years. She moved from her pri­vate prac­tice to the SANBS two years ago, hav­ing been at­tracted to the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­cause of its ethics and the op­por­tu­nity to help pa­tients in both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors. “I reached a point where I asked how I could give back and dis­trib­ute my knowl­edge,” she says.

Blood is the cor­ner­stone of health­care in SA, she says, be­cause no modern health­care sys­tem can op­er­ate with­out a blood trans­fu­sion sys­tem. She adds that while the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s deeply grate­ful to donors, there are still pa­tients who are lost due to blood short­ages. “Peo­ple should be com­pelled for al­tru­is­tic rea­sons to do­nate blood,” she says.

TSHEPI MAE­SELA (43), Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer. Blood type: O+

Mae­sela’s been with the SANBS for the past year. Her re­spon­si­bil­ity is to en­sure that the or­gan­i­sa­tion col­lects enough rev­enue and spends it re­spon­si­bly.

Peo­ple pay for blood ser­vices for many rea­sons, she says. “We have to test the blood to en­sure it’s safe for all pa­tients. We also have to trans­port it across SA and pay for equip­ment like blood bags and nee­dles.”

She be­lieves peo­ple have a duty to give back to the coun­try by do­nat­ing blood. “When you do that, you’re giv­ing of your­self to SA,” she says.

NTHABISENG THU­PANA (38), Senior Man­ager: IT. Blood type: B+

For the past three years, Thu­pana’s been look­ing after one of the core sys­tems at the SANBS: SAP-ERP (En­ter­prise Re­source Plan­ning). It com­prises over 40 IT sys­tems to en­sure the or­gan­i­sa­tion runs ef­fi­ciently.

Through a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, she came to bet­ter un­der­stand the im­por­tance of blood. “My cousin lost a lot of blood dur­ing child­birth and the SANBS saved her life.”

In the fu­ture, she sees the SANBS mak­ing a shift to donor mo­bil­ity and us­ing tech­nol­ogy to im­prove the blood do­na­tion process and to as­sist the busi­ness to per­form op­ti­mally.

Silungile Mlambo

Siemi Prithvi Raj

Nthabiseng Thu­pana

Tshepi Mae­sela

Dr Jackie Thom­son

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