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To Thalassemics In Orissa, Mishra Is The Lifeline

To Thalassemics In Orissa, Mishra Is The Lifeline
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He is dismissed by many as a crank, an eccentric and a publicity seeker. His untiring efforts to clean up the blood banks of Bhubaneswar haven't even earned him a promotion. He'll retire in two years with nothing but a paltry pension and a dream to his credit. To most, Dr R.P. Mishra is merely the doctor in charge of the city's Municipal Hospital blood bank. But to the 500-odd thalassemics in Orissa, he's the lifeline. This square stodgy man is hardly the stuff dreams are made of. But Mishra hasn't only dreamt big dreams; he has realised some.

When Mishra was posted at the Municipal Hospital blood bank in '93, things couldn't have been worse. Like the majority of blood banks in Orissa, it was badly run, ill-equipped and unsafe. Professional donors ruled the roost. Its total funds stood at Rs 967. No doctor wanted to sacrifice his career by taking on the mess. Mishra, who had completed a month's training in operating blood banks at the scb Medical Hospital in Cuttack, was asked by the chief medical officer to take over.

With an impeccable record, he was the best choice. Mishra was known never to have charged a patient for treatment, nor did he endorse a false medical certificate in his career. His inflexibility won him few friends and many enemies. But he accepted the challenge. With a staff of one technician and one attendant, he made the blood bank the best in Orissa. Today, it supplies blood to all three premier hospitals in the state and is an efficient unit. It has fixed deposits worth Rs 7 lakh, the interest from which provides free blood to thalassemic children below the poverty line.

Mishra first realised the plight of thalassemics while at the blood bank. Thalassemia is a genetic disorder. It reduces the red blood cells and causes severe anaemia in the patient leading to an early death. Frequent transfusions and bone marrow transplants are imperative to prolong life. Government blood banks, where blood is available on exchange, are the major sources. Patients have to bank on donors in the family at least twice a month. Frequent donations raise the iron level in blood and expose the donor to risks. Also, blood at Rs 120 per unit is expensive.

Says Dr Mishra, 'I had about 20 children depending on my blood bank. It seemed to me that thalassemics below the poverty line had no choice but to die.' Thus began taswels (Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Welfare Society),a movement to provide free and safe blood to the needy. Using his goodwill, Mishra approached local Rotary clubs for help. His aim was to ensure treatment for thalassemics, provide cheap transfusion and spread awareness.

Taswels took off on May 3, '98. About 150 thalassemics in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack are registered with it. It provides free Hepatitis-B vaccines to the poor. Specialists from the four metros are brought to Bhubaneswar by taswels to provide free consultation. It educates the public on the disease through pamphlets. Mishra focuses on marriage counselling as the right choice of partner dispels danger of inheriting the disease. In his bloodbank, he has introduced the Yellow card for voluntary donors, the Blue card for high-risk donors and donor insurance in a tie-up with National Insurance Company.

Despite little support from the authorities, Mishra's blood bank is one of the best equipped in Orissa. It has an Elisa machine, a refrigerator centrifuge and is acquiring a cell separator and a mobile blood donation van. But he isn't resting. 'Till my last breath, I'll continue to serve this cause. I'll help some unknown persons daily,that's my aim,' he says. His dream,to set up a charitable paediatric hospital in the city with 20 beds for children with blood disorders. If he succeeds, 'his children' will be able advocates.

If you want to help, contact R.P. Mishra at

Blood Bank,

Municipal Hospital,

Old Town,

Bhubaneswar.

Telephone: 414444.

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