Mexican brothers Cesar and Javier Esquivel have created a smartphone app that they think could revolutionize the way people donate blood.
The backstory to their new invention started in 2013, when Cesar, a biochemical engineer, befriended a young man named Carlos while working in a medical laboratory in the northern city of Monterrey. Carlos’ wife had cancer and was in desperate need of platelets and O negative blood transfusions.
“He asked me to donate blood. But I couldn’t make it because I had a huge workload and was under a lot of pressure,” Cesar told me in a phone interview. “[Carlos] later told me his wife had died and it felt like a big slap in the face.”
Cesar turned his guilt into innovation by teaming up with his brother Javier, a computer engineer, to develop a digital network of blood donors and recipients. “We realized that very few people in Mexico donate blood altruistically, and most donors only do it for a friend or family member,” Cesar explained. “We thought technology could help bridge this gap.”
He says that in the last year more than 2,200 donations have been made through his “Blooders” app, which now has more than 7,000 registered members. It works by matching people in need of blood transfusions with volunteers who are willing to donate. Users fill out an online profile with their information and blood type and volunteers can browse the profiles and schedule an appointment to donate blood.
Cesar says the appointment is carried out in one of 25 hospitals in Mexico City, Monterrey, Puebla, and Villahermosa. Each hospital pays a fee to be part of the Blooders network.
All transfusions are supervised by hospital staff and follow formal prerequisites and guidelines.
The interface is free for recipients and volunteers and allows users to share their good deeds or blood drive campaigns on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
The brothers hope Blooders can spread nationwide and become something like the Uber of blood donations.
“It doesn’t hurt to donate blood,” Cesar told me. “It hurts when you need it and don’t have it.”