Japanese star swimmer Rikako Ikee, who last year stunned fans with news that she was battling leukemia, has launched an urgent appeal for people to give blood after steps to curb the spread of COVID-19 led to a sharp drop in donations.
Ikee, who finished treatment in December last year and has vowed to target the 2024 Paris Olympics, said on Twitter that there were people whose lives depended on donations and that the “drastic decrease” was causing anxiety.
“It’s a difficult time due to the spread of the coronavirus, but even now blood donations are needed with the cooperation of many people,” Ikee said.
“I was also in the hematology department, so I deeply feel the importance of blood transfusions,” she added. “Even one life can save many people’s lives.”
The 19-year-old burst into the spotlight at the 2018 Asian Games, where she won six titles. She was seen as a strong medal contender for this year’s Tokyo Olympics until she was diagnosed with leukemia in February last year.
She has since also become an inspiration outside the pool for others fighting their own medical battles, and has now used her public platform to bring attention to the decline in blood donations.
Blood donations are crucial for a wide range of patients, from those with cancer or anemia to accident victims and women with labor complications.
However, the Japanese Red Cross Society said that measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak, including the cancelation of public events and encouraging people to stay home for work, have made it hard to carry out blood drives.
About 13,000 donations are needed every day, but the group has missed this target since the week of Feb. 16.
“This situation is expected to increase and it is feared it will be difficult to maintain a stable inventory of blood products as the number of donors decreases,” the organization said. “We sincerely ask for your cooperation in donating blood.”
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