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When sharing saves lives

Larisa Ipolitova has now donated blood 41 times. That is exactly why she was honored by the city authorities with a merit award this year.

Long before she completed her medical studies and took the Hippocratic Oath, she was obsessed with protecting the lives and health of people. Not only through her work as a physician, but with something she just shared. Her blood. The 31-year-old has now donated blood 41 times; to small babies, to mothers during childbirth or to seriously injured accident victims. That is exactly why she was honored by the city authorities with a merit award this year. But how did she start donating blood, and what was her motivation?

"I can still vividly remember the day in 2004, when I first became aware of the issue of blood donations," says Larisa. Today she works as a physician at the  B. Braun Renal Care Center in Khabarovsk - a city in the far east of Russia, close to the Chinese border - at that time she had just started to study medicine at the Far East State University. "Everything was exciting and fascinating for me then," says Larisa. "My dream of studying medicine was suddenly a reality and I was running through my new world in a state of excitement and timidity." That day, she overheard a conversation between a couple of older students. They were standing in front of a poster inviting them to donate blood. Some of them already had donated blood, others doubted if they should do this, and one of them was talking about fainting and painful punctures.

The joy afterwards was incredibly intense

"I don’t know why, but for some reason, I was immediately fascinated, even though I was afraid of the procedure itself. In retrospect, I can’t really rationalize it." She wanted to go straight to the university library, where a Bloodmobile had been set up that day, and donate blood herself. "I wanted to know everything: how it felt, how the process was done, technically, and how it felt when you knew that your own blood could save someone else's life. The trouble was, I was not allowed to," Larisa recalls with a laugh. She was not old enough yet, so she had to wait for a couple of months until her 18th birthday. "When I finally went to donate for the first time, I was nervous, like before an exam." However, she found the procedure pleasantly unspectacular, and the joy afterwards incredibly intense. 

Decision about life and death

What was really exciting, however, was learning that her blood was type-O-negative. "At the time, I thought it could be a coincidence," says Larisa. Because as a medical student, she knew that only twelve percent of people worldwide have this rare blood group, which is compatible with any other blood groups. This is particularly important when bleeding cannot be stopped quickly. For example, in the case of accident victims. By the time the blood type has been determined, patients have often lost a life-threatening amount of blood. In this situation, the administration of type-O-negative blood can make the difference between life and death. "When I learned that all of my relatives have positive blood types, and in my case, the odds of being O-negative were less than ten percent, I simply decided it was not a coincidence. Since then, I’ve donated regularly." Sometimes just on an impulse, but sometimes because she was called and asked to come. 

Share to save lives

She shakes her head when asked if she is  proud of the award, which she received during a solemn ceremony. She says she’s not proud, but very happy. Because this kind of award can help to draw attention to the importance of donating blood, and inspire people to donate as well. "There’s always someone who needs blood. Even now, at this very moment. And it's up to all of us, if we're willing to share so we can save lives."

By Christin Bernhardt