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  Nr. 82 - June 2005
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Blood - The Gift of Life

by Angelica Eder, June 2005
An Interview with Maria Nafpliotou

This month blood donation will take place between the 3rd and 5th of June in Paroikia, Marpissa and Antiparos.

The first time you donate blood, a donor card (deltio ethelondi aimodoti) is issued, which will be mailed to you soon after your blood-type is established. You should take this card with you each time you donate blood in order to get it stamped. As a donor you are then entitled to receive a blood transfusion at any time in the future that you may need it; in case you are not a donor, you have to find others to give blood on your behalf. If you want to donate, get an early night, don't drink or take medication and see the "what's on" section for exact dates and times.

Maria Nafpliotou, volunteer at the Health Centre and vice-president of the administrative board for more than four decades, gave us a brief summary of the history of blood donation on the island.

The first blood donations in Greece were started in 1936 by the Red Cross. In 1940, at the beginning of the war, Maria, who was living in Athens at that time, heard on the radio that they were looking for blood donors. She was only 15 years old and was at first rejected due to her young age. But blood was badly needed and when they found out that she had blood-type O+ (which is compatible with all other blood-types) they willingly accepted her as a donor. From then on she went to donate blood every month during the war and worked as a volunteer at the Red Cross and the Evangelismos Hospital, caring for the wounded soldiers that came in from the battlefields.

In 1950 she came to Paros with her husband and continued her volunteer work at the local medical care unit, later the Health Centre, working as an assistant and nurse alongside Dr Kebapis, who was featured in last month's edition of Paros Life.

On several occasions she literally saved lives by giving blood directly from "needle to needle", often for hours on end.

In 1982 she was elected president of the local Syllogos Gynaikon (women's group) and, together with her friends, she established the first group of 24 donors, who gave blood once a year in cooperation with the Hospital of Syros which sent over the equipment and a volunteer team. At the time the costs were covered by private sponsors.

Due to the rising demand for blood supplies and the growing number of donors, the Syllogos Ethelonton Aimodoton (Association of Blood Donors) was formed in 1991 in cooperation with the Paidon Aghia Sophia Hospital in Athens. Expenses are covered partly by the Municipality of Paros and from various donations.

The current board of the Association comprises: President Maria Nafpliotou, Vice-president Nikos Arkoulis, Secretary Markos Koveos, Treasurer Marousso Frangouli and members Despina Polou, Stelios Aliprantis and Maria Daferera.

Blood donations take place twice a year in May/June and November at the Health Centre in Paroikia, and in May/June at the surgery in Marpissa in honour of Nikolas Stellas, a young man who was killed during the German occupation.

400 ccl of blood is taken from each donor and sent to the blood bank at Paidon Aghia Sophia, where it is screened, processed and stored. Any time a patient needs a blood transfusion, the respective hospital, wherever it is in Greece, calls Maria, who in return calls the blood bank to order the amount and the destination to which it is to be sent.
The blood collected on Paros is meant to cover the needs of the island's residents in the first place - any surplus goes to emergencies, like victims of accidents and to children who suffer from anaemia.

So far Paros is at the top of the list with 1,100 blood donors a year, which is outstanding for Greece and means that no blood has to be imported.

In 2004 the Red Cross awarded Maria Nafpliotou a gold medal for her years of dedicated service; the Association received two gold medals - one from the Red Cross and one from President Konstantinos Stefanopoulos.

Maria, who has donated blood from the age of 15 to 76, and is still active as president of the Association, sums up the work of a lifetime in a single sentence:

"To aima den exei ora, den exei chroma, den exei sinora" ("Blood has no hour, it has no colour and no borders.")
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