Sitting in a wobbly chair, Luis Adrian patiently waits for the end of his transfusion. At the Juarez Hospital in Mexico City, the young man is the only patient of the day who can receive blood.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, blood donors, who fear being infected with the virus, are becoming scarce in Mexico. Suddenly, the shortage begins to be felt.
Luis, 21, has suffered from testicular cancer for a year and a half. He had been anxiously waiting four months for his sixth transfusion, which he needed to support the effects of chemotherapy, including anemia.
“Many people lack blood” in other hospitals, told AFP the slim young man. His transfusion should last four hours.
Before the start of the health crisis, Juarez Hospital was able to perform 50 transfusions per day. This is no longer the case today.
“Many patients are panicked. You have to put yourself in their place. Not being able to be transfused can have serious consequences,” insists Luis. Under the plastic mask that completely covers his face, he also put on a surgical mask.
– “What will tomorrow be made of?” –
Before the Covid-19 eruption, some 140,000 doses of blood of 480 ml each were collected in Mexico. Since March and April, their number has dropped to 40,000, José Luis Salazar, director of research at the National Center for Blood Transfusion, told AFP.
Almost all of these donations (93%) come from relatives of patients, the rest (7%) are made by volunteers, says Salazar.
The shortage is such that the manager does not hesitate to call the journalists to whom he speaks, so that they too donate their blood.
As in many epidemic countries, the Mexican health care system has given priority to patients with coronavirus at the expense of other conditions deemed less urgent, which has slowed calls for blood donations.
According to the Pan American Health Organization, Mexico is the country in Latin America and the Caribbean where donated the least amount of blood for free in 2016 and 2017 with 4.8% and 5.2% of blood donation, against 62% and 62.1% for Brazil.
“We work with a minimum of blood,” deplores Dr. Armando Ramirez, head of the oncology department of Juarez hospital, which also cares for patients with Covid-19.
“We are still concerned about what tomorrow will be like,” adds Ramirez, stressing that if in the still recent past there were stocks for one or two weeks, now “we are moving day by day”.
– “Apocalyptic scenario” –
Antonio Casas, administrative manager of the Juarez hospital blood bank, does not remember such a critical situation that he had to prioritize the most serious patients.
“We had about 100 doses (of blood components) per day on average. Currently, we are at 20,” he explains.
In front of the semi-empty refrigerators of the National Center for Transfusion, Mr. Salazar foresees an “apocalyptic scenario”.
On the day Adrian was transfused, only five volunteers donated blood to a mobile transfusion unit that had parked in a residential area in southern Mexico.
“I need my immune defenses more than ever, I can’t donate” my blood, says Ismael Franco, an employee of a cable company.
In Mexico, some 30,000 people have died from Covid-19 out of the 250,000 others who have been officially infected.
On his hospital bed, Luis Adrian admits that times are difficult.
“Still, people need to be aware of the problem. Have heart!”.
jg-pa / tup / ahe
Video: Covid-19: according to the WHO, “around 20%” of affected patients develop a “serious illness” (Le Figaro)