Kiran Verma’s Independence Day Mission

Donate blood, save lives‘ is a much-used slogan, and the four words capture the essence of how important blood is.

For anyone in need of it, for whatever medical reason it may be, there is simply no other alternative other than the blood donated by another human being.

That is because the search for artificial blood is still in its early stage and will take a long time to become a reality.

Until then, people will have to donate blood, be it to their friends and relatives or total strangers to save their lives.

But this is often easier said than done, and only when one of their loved ones needs blood most of ever think about this and what follows next is a mad rush to arrange donors on time.

Many a time such requests get turned down, for one reason or another, which could even cost a life.

This is what Kiran Verma from Delhi is hoping to change.

In December 2021, Verma embarked on a 21,000 km journey on foot across India to spread awareness about blood donation.

Verma who started his 21,000 km walk from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala has reached Gujarat, after walking through, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Goa, Maharashtra, and Daman and Diu.

First-hand experience on the need of blood

“The first time ever heard about blood donation was at the age of five, when my mother was battling cancer. I saw how my father struggled to arrange blood. At the age of seven, I lost my mother I learned the pain of losing someone close to you,” Verma said.

He became a donner for the first time at the age of 18 when he donated blood to his teacher, an experience Verma says changed him forever.

“Once I got to know that one of my teachers needed blood. Though I had no particular liking or empathy towards this teacher I thought of donating blood to him. I was hoping to get some brownie points from him for donating blood. After I donated blood the teacher’s son thanked me. That ‘thank you’ was so deep, that it brought back memories of my family’s struggle to arrange blood for my mother,” he said.

From there, Verma made it a point to donate blood, whenever he can. Slowly he got introduced to volunteer groups, that long before the days of Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp were connecting donors with recipients through Orkut and Yahoo Groups.

One incident made him quit job to do this full time

Verma who working with an educational group at the time said a blood donation request at the peak of the demonetisation-induced financial crisis made him dedicate his entire time and efforts to the cause.

“I got a call on December 26 from someone asking if I could arrange a blood donor for a patient in a Delhi hospital. I used to donate blood on my birthdays – December 27, so I thought why not a day earlier? After donating blood I was shocked to learn that the wife of the patient had paid some Rs 2,000 to the guy who had contacted me to donate blood. This was at a time when all of us were struggling to withdraw money from our accounts,” he recalled.

Verma said he felt cheated and tried to complain to the authorities, but no avail. He also tried to meet the patient for whom he had donated blood, but he was not able to as they had gone from some medical tests.

“A woman who was sharing the ward with them told me that the wife was forced to turn into prostitution to fund her husband’s treatment. The couple was from Chhattisgarh and the husband was terminally ill. The family had spent all their resources on his treatment and she had no other option other than turning into prostitution to fund her husband’s treatment. I was shocked to hear this and left there after keeping whatever money I had in my pocket under their pillow,” Verma said.

On his way to the office, Verma spoke to his wife about what he had just come across.

“My wife told me if you can solve the problem, then solve it, if you can’t then there is no point in crying about it. That is when I decided to quit my job and do this full-time. I resigned from my job the same day,” he continued.

Founding ‘Simply Blood’

Verma then founded ‘Simply Blood’ a platform to bring those looking for donors and those willing to donate together with a vision that nobody should die waiting for blood.

The service of Simply Blood is available through the website, a mobile app, and WhatsApp.

According to him, 15 million units of blood are required in India every year, while only 10 million units are available.

He blames the shortage on our social attitude where we failed to grow blood donation as a culture.

Plasma requests during COVID-19

The worst of this, Verma said he saw during the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 when everyone was looking for plasma donors for someone they knew.

“I was getting thousands of calls with requests for plasma donors. A lot of people who had recovered from COVID-19 were eligible to donate plasma but were reluctant to do it because of the wrong perceptions they had about blood donation. I felt that it is important for me to go out and do my bit to change this. That is how I decided to walks across India to spread the message,” Verma said.

Nobody should die waiting for blood

With an aim to make India where “nobody should die waiting for blood after 31 Dec 2025,” embarked on a 21,000 km walk across India on December 28, 2021.

In every new city he passes through, Verma tries to meet as many people as possible, and speak to them in simple terms about the importance of blood donation.

The 37-year-old who covers on average 30kms a day on foot has walked around 4100 km so far. By his own estimate, it will take him two years to complete the 21,000 km walk.

“We need just 5 million more blood donors and if I can inspire at least a handful of people I meet in every city I go, I am sure that we can bridge this gap,” he said.

He however admitted that the walk so far has not been an easy one.

“Some days I feel that I can’t walk anymore, and then there are days when terrine won’t allow me to walk more than 10 kms. Right now I am in Chotila, where the day temperature is 45-47 degrees and even the locals don’t step out during the day,” he said.

Solve one problem for a generation

Talking about how he has been able to sustain himself, Verma said he keeps his routine simple and most of the time in a new city, someone who followed his posts on social media or was him walking in their city comes forward to host him for a day.

Like, how India was able to eradicate polio, Verma says the country is capable of that no Indians will die due to the lack of blood.

“If this problem is fixed, our future generations have one less issue to be worried about. If I can help in solving one problem of our generation, it will impact 1.3 billion Indians directly, just by encouraging 5 million more people to donate blood. If that happens it will be a momentous achievement to solve a problem that affects the entire country,” he said.