According to news sources, many Russians are reluctant to give their blood without being paid for it, due to the legacy of the Soviet era when donors were rewarded with food, days-off and honorary distinctions. Public opinion surveys reveal that almost 50 percent of Russia’s potential donors do expect some kind of compensation for their efforts.
In the words of Vadim Khovansky a man who donates his blood often:
“I don't care whether I'm paid or not, but I'm given a day-off. That's what I care about. To have some rest”.
These days, not many employers are willing to grant days off to their staff, especially during these times of an economic crisis. Blood shortages are more acute during public holidays and seem to coincide with a dip in stock sales. In cases of extreme shortages, some believe blood substitutes such as Perftoran should be utilized.
Invented by Russian scientists, Perftoran has been in limited use for at least ten years. Often referred to as ‘blue blood’, it is also available in America and Japan. Developed about two decades ago, Perftoran has only been recently approved for medical usage. Despite this, it was widely used by military medics during the war in Afghanistan and saved many soldiers suffering from massive blood losses. It did present some risks however and did cause some side effects, but when compared to death due to blood loss they seem endurable. Some of these side effects include: fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and a decrease in platelet count.
According to Dr. Vladimir Gorodetsky:
“It’s an emulsion which should be kept frozen at minus 18 degrees Celsius, whereas it can only be used on patients at plus 20 - 30 degrees Celsius. This can become a technical problem when time is running out.”
Not all hospitals in Russia can afford Perftoran as it costs more than $100 US dollars a bottle. Besides, some experts say, Perftoran can be hard to use in emergency cases. Instead of seeking synthetic blood substitutes, many Russians claim that it is the public's attitude towards donating blood that needs to be changed, so that a life-saving donation is no longer perceived as needing compensation, but rather as an act of altruism.
The future of this synthetic blood alternative remains to be seen. More important and life-altering would be changes in the national attitude about blood donations. These are impossible to monitor or predict.
Time alone will tell.