In 2005, a young girl in her S.4 at Nakasero Senior School responded to a call by teachers for students to donate blood following a Nakasero blood bank drive at the school.
“I reluctantly accepted to donate blood not because I wanted to do it but because I wanted to know my blood group,” Annet Ssempijja begins her story.
Fast forward, in February 2014, Ssempijja almost lost her life as medics frantically searched for blood for 10 hours to save her life with a transfusion. Her kind gesture of donating blood returned to give her a new lease on life.
Only at this critical stage in her life did Nampijja begin to appreciate the culture of blood donation she had been introduced to as a pupil.
The mother of two says that during her first pregnancy in 2013, she started experiencing persistent stomach complications that increasingly became worse. At eight months of pregnancy, her condition deteriorated.
“I started bleeding profusely that it became an emergency and was rushed to hospital. On reaching hospital, I was taken to the scan whose results showed the baby was already dead,” Ssempijja narrates with tears in her eyes.
She narrates that the doctors advised that she had to deliver the dead baby normally.
Ssempijja says that after the ‘normal’ delivery, bleeding did not stop stop causing her to lose a lot of blood. The hospital staff became alarmed because they did not have any fresh blood in storage for such an emergency.
“They (hospital) didn’t have blood and I blacked out,” Ssempijja recalls.
She, however, says that before blacking out, she had whispered to relatives who were tending to her in hospital that she had ever donated blood and that she had a card to show this.
This was her savior because, on seeing the donation card, the hospital had to look for blood from all corners of the world to ensure they save her life.
“When I gained consciousness the following morning, I was told, the hospital had to look for blood from Entebbe and this was made easy because I had ever donated blood.”
“I was told the hospital had no blood and they had to look for it from wherever it was. They managed to get four units and of these, three were used up by me.”
She says she had never thought of a moment where the blood she had donated would return to save her life while so helpless.
“Since then, I have come to learn that someone out there needs blood and it can only be got through donation,” Ssempijja, a professional engineer says.
She urges members of the public to take part in any blood donation drives around the country.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that Uganda has an annual demand of about 340,000 units of blood but falls short by over 100,000 units.