Pratap Chandnani had seen cancer from close quarters. His mother was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2010. She needed blood at regular intervals, and over the course of two years she had to undergo hundred blood transfusions. After his mother’s death, he pledged to make blood donation more simple and efficient. He then started Green Shakti Foundation, a not for profit organisation that works towards building a sustainable future.

In 2014, the NGO decided to find an innovative way of blood donation and blood banking. Chandnani along with hematologist Dr Dharma Choudhary launched the ‘Donor On Call App’, a mobile app for android users which connects donors to real-time requests. The revolutionary app links matching blood group donors with the recipient, by locating donors present nearby. The donor receives a notification, and then accepts and coordinates with the person who sent it. As of now, the application is available for android users only, but the foundation plans to roll out a version compatible with the iOs operating system soon.

Chandnani said the idea was to make blood donation a less strenuous affair. “What began as a small group of donors gradually became a strong network of committed individuals. We realized that the manual process of sending out the message and calling donors took hours. In most cases requiring blood, time is of essence. If we can have an app to order a cab or even food, why not create one for blood donation as well?,” he opined.

He explained how the application has succeeded in reaching out to patients in critical situations within minutes. “After a year, we were able to develop an application which could load dynamic locations, show the distance and even spot the donor on the map. The app also contains a special feature for SOS situations, wherein the requester may call the donor by pressing the call button,” he said. He added that in most cases the volunteers do due diligence to verify the authenticity of the requester by first meeting and engaging with the applicant.

Encouraging people to donate blood he said, “It’s an opportunity for people to support their community. It’s a brave thing to do.”

A single unit of blood can go on to save many lives. On 14 June, every year, countries across the world celebrate World Blood Donor Day (WBDD). The day is marked to create awareness about the need for safe blood and blood products and to offer thanks to all blood donors for their life-saving acts. Despite the campaigns to increase awareness on the issue, many people still feel reticent to donate blood.

But experts believe that donating blood can have positive effects on your health. Dr. Vanshree Singh, Director of the Indian Red Cross Society blood bank outlined its many benefits. “The plasma has free fatty acids, so when you donate blood even your cholesterol level is reduced. Many studies have also shown that blood donation can reduce the risk of heart diseases,”

She however said that thorough fitness tests are imperative before people are allowed to donate. “There is a criterion that must be met. The donor should lie in the age group of 18 to 65 years and must weigh 45 kg or above. The hemoglobin level should be at least 12.5 and the blood pressure and pulse should be within the normal range. The individual should not be suffering from any viral or communicable disease. Besides this, a person having a history of heart, kidney or brain diseases is not allowed to donate blood,” she explained.

Calling voluntary donation the need of the hour, she said that people need to think beyond and not just donate when their family or friends are in need. “People should stop waiting for a disaster to strike and must start donating today,” she added.