SINGAPORE - As a young man, Mr Yam Wai Hong went to the reception of the blood bank centre to ask strangers whether they needed his help to increase the count of units for their relatives or friends.
This was some 30 years ago, when those who needed a transfusion had to "recruit" donors in exchange for receiving blood.
On Saturday, Mr Yam, 66, was one of 1,505 individuals and mobile blood donation organisers recognised for their contributions.
The former head of student development at ITE College West - who now runs an ice cream parlour - was one of the 15 Medal for Life winners. They were honoured for giving 200 or more units at the National Blood Programme's celebration of the 10th World Blood Donor Day, which falls on June 14.
Mr Yam has been donating on a routine basis since he was a 19-year-old trainee teacher. Back then, his lecturer encouraged the class to give blood at a mobile drive, and the good deed stuck. "Those who are scared of needles or blood should think about the end objective," he said. "It's nothing more than just a prick, like an ant bite, and you get to save lives."
Donations through the National Blood Programme - run by the Singapore Red Cross and the Health Sciences Authority's Blood Services Group - nearly doubled from 66,000 units a decade ago to 118,000 last year.
This year's aim is to collect 126,000 units and attract more young donors. Demand for blood is projected to soar over the next 10 to 20 years, said Health Sciences Authority chief executive John Lim.
"This is due to our growing and rapidly ageing populating, an expanding network of hospitals to meet our health-care needs, and new treatment protocols requiring intensive blood support."
Every day, Singapore's hospitals need a total of 400 units for patients requiring transfusions for reasons including leukaemia, haemophilia, and bleeding disorders.
Marketing manager Liang Shumin, 30, did not realise how important blood donation was until she needed 37 units to survive complications after giving birth to her first child last year. "It doesn't cost you anything, maybe except some time," she said. "But it's a special way of saving someone's life."
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