Donations not so black and white for ‘panda blood’ people

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Wang Jinsong’s father needed an emergency surgery last November. Due to severe anemia, Wang’s father required at least 800 cc of blood before the operation. But Wang then found out that his father had “panda blood,” commonly known as the blood type Rh-negative.

“Figure it out yourself,” said the doctor after Wang failed to find a blood donor after anxiously seeking help.

Wang realized his father was likely living his last days. He turned to social media for help. Everyone who saw Wang’s online plea attempted coming to rescue, yet no one was suitable for the transfusion. Wang was stuck, waiting.

After a full week, a volunteer from the local “panda blood” mutual aid group referred Wang a suitable blood donor from another city for his father. Wang’s father eventually survived.

The term “panda blood” is a phrase used in China for rare blood types. But under the scientific definition, rare blood types are those which exist in less than one in a thousand individuals of a certain population so the Rh-negative blood type which represents only 0.3 percent of the Han population (the largest ethnic group in China) does not qualify as rare . But because of blood type being overlooked, the majority of people with panda blood are hidden, and some are not even aware of their own blood type.

In 2019, Beijing recorded 20.536 million permanent residents in total. There should be about 60,000 people with Rh-negative blood type in the capital city.

But only 5,000 people in Beijing are registered with the Home for People with Rare Blood Type at the Beijing Red Cross Blood Center. The Home’s manager Qi Xuming said that people are generally unwilling to donate blood. Those who are and live in Beijing are often not permanent residents, which makes finding people with rare blood types harder.

In some circumstances, more than one person with rare blood types might need a large quantity of blood simultaneously. For example, in 2014, a patient with severe burns alone used 9,000 cc of blood. On the same day, another patient needed blood after surgery. The Home almost exhausted its blood reserve before volunteers donated new blood.

“There has barely been enough blood in the reserve,” said Qi.