By Dimithri Wijesinghe and Chenelle Fernando
On 21 April, Sri Lanka was subject to a series of terror attacks that threatened the very fabric of our nation.
As the rumours and terror continued, there was an overall sense of hopelessness that permeated the atmosphere.
It’s difficult to see any goodness in times of tragedy, but in a show of solidarity and heart-warming unity, on the day when coordinated explosions affected our nation, an overwhelming number of Sri Lankans flocked to the National Blood Bank following a nationwide call for help, requesting blood for the injured.
It really didn’t take much convincing for a horde of Sri Lankans of all faiths to leave the safety of their homes, without even a second thought about their wellbeing, to come and donate blood and do their part for their fellow countrymen.
We spoke with National Blood Centre, Narahenpita, Deputy Director Dr. Deepa Saranadeewa who expressed her deepest gratitude and happiness in seeing so many Sri Lankans come together with the singular focus to provide assistance.
“On the day of the incident, we had an overwhelming number of Sri Lankans coming to donate blood. The numbers were in the thousands, to the point where we couldn’t accommodate the crowd.
On the first day, we collected 780 units and on the second day we collected 250-300.
“This process takes time, because we screen the blood that comes in, ensuring it’s safe to be used. In order to streamline the process and save on time, we screened those who came in by asking those with any communicable or non-communicable diseases to remove themselves, thereby simplifying the process.
“No matter how big the crowd grew, the atmosphere was very friendly and helpful. People were simply there to help, driven almost by a dire need to contribute, to help any way that they could.”
We also spoke to a doctor at the National Blood Centre, Dr. Narmadha, who witnessed the support of those pouring in to donate blood. She said: “We have a huge stock of blood in the bank now, because of the overwhelming support expressed by the people of our country. It was a peaceful crowd, everyone was very orderly and was just here to help, and when the crowd was too much, and we had taken up the maximum of what we could handle, they all registered and left so we may contact them when needed.”
Shevandra Wijemanne, who was one of the earliest to make his way over to the National Blood Centre, shared his experience.
“I went to the centre at around 10 a.m. that morning; I usually donate twice a year as a policy. By the time I got there, there wasn’t that much of a crowd. However, once I went through the screening process and donated and then came out of the building was when the crowds started coming in. As I left the building, I interacted with a few people waiting in line.
“At that time the crowd was getting too much to handle – around 11 a.m. – the staff called the universal donors forward first, requesting them to methodically work their way through the crowd.
“What was really impressive was how many people showed up despite there being warnings for everyone to take care and be cautious.
“No curfew was imposed at the time, as it was a few hours past the attack. However, in spite of the tense and dangerous atmosphere, many people took the risk and stepped up. I saw many people on the phone while standing in line, making phone calls to their loved ones and friends, checking on them to see if they were alright and unharmed.”
Stephan Chris, another who waded his way through the city to contribute, added: “I felt how good our country people are despite various issues. People who came there didn’t know who were affected or what the reason behind the attacks was, but they were good enough to help the victims in any way they could.
“They all were shocked and really worried, with many of them desperate to help the victims. Ultimately, the authorities couldn’t control the crowd and then announced that they received the adequate amount of blood needed and asked everyone to leave.”