How did Google save your life

Doctors, couriers and blood donors are working together to save lives across Africa

Search on - five minute story
Search on - five minute story
Afternoon in Lagos, Nigeria. 24 million people live here. It's rush hour - and there is simply no getting through.
Except for Joseph Kalu. Joseph isn't just any motorcycle courier - he works for LifeBank, a technology company founded by Temie Giwa-Tubosun that connects blood banks and hospitals directly. His goal? To deliver the life-saving blood in its cool box within 45 minutes.
Joseph starts the LifeBank app on his smartphone: It shows him the fastest routes between blood banks, doctors and drivers across the city's traffic chaos - with the help of Google Maps Platform. Joseph can see at a glance where the blood bank is and where the hospital waiting for the delivery is.
Time is of the essence: if a person loses 40% of their blood, they can die of organ failure. LifeBank is in a race against time every day.

An earlier version of this story was published in 2019. We have added a new documentary film showing how LifeBank is fighting the spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun urgently needed access to card information in order to be able to solve the problem with the lack of blood in her home country, Nigeria. This is where Google came in: Organizing information and making it accessible to everyone is important to us - and it is precisely this kind of project that should be made possible. With the help of the Google Maps Platform, Temie was now able to develop a system that connects blood banks and hospitals. As a result, delivery times could be reduced from 24 hours to less than 45 minutes.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun

In January 2016 Temie officially launched LifeBank. At that time she was not a stranger, because she had already campaigned intensively for the topic of "Maternal and Child Health in Nigeria". With her app, she wanted to advance one goal above all else: blood products should get to the patients who urgently needed them as quickly as possible. The idea for this came up in 2014 when Temie was pregnant with her son. She was living in Lagos at the time, but her parents had emigrated to the United States. Because Temie wanted her mother with her when she was born, she traveled to see her.

Temie was hospitalized for an emergency caesarean section when she was 30 weeks pregnant. Fortunately, the doctors were able to deliver their son Enafie safely. "If I had had my son in Lagos, I might have died of postpartum bleeding," noted Temie.

Six weeks

The shelf life of donated blood

The Red Cross, 2019

Nigeria has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the world, accounting for 19% of all maternal deaths. Postpartum bleeding - life-threatening blood loss after giving birth - is the most common cause of death. The lack of a donor blood supply infrastructure in Nigeria exacerbates this problem. "When I realized that, I knew: I have to do everything in my power," explains Temie. She returned to Lagos - determined to find a solution.

Donated blood can only be kept for six weeks. Often times they are tainted before they can be used because doctors simply don't know where to find the right blood type. Temie realized that there was a logistical problem here: "The doctors who need blood and the blood banks who have to throw away their blood primarily needed a direct way to communicate with each other." Temie used Google Maps Platform to network these previously separate groups. She mapped every facility in Lagos that regulates the distribution of blood - from hospitals to blood banks to courier drivers - and suddenly she had the solution.

In the past, hospitals - and sometimes even patient family members - had to call blood banks one by one to see if the blood type they needed was in stock. How quickly the individual blood banks responded to inquiries often made the difference between life and death. Overtaxed doctors and desperate relatives often simply did not know where to get suitable blood in time.

We are using Google Maps to create a communication platform for blood banks, hospitals and patients - something that has never been done before.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun

To solve this problem, Temie created and mapped an online blood bank in collaboration with 52 blood banks in Lagos. Doctors can now request a specific blood type and instantly track delivery on a card. Thanks to the LifeBank model, donated blood is usually used up within a week - almost no blood is wasted and supply and demand finally match.

Every two seconds

Somebody in the US needs blood.

The Red Cross, 2019

Before LifeBank existed, it could take several hours, sometimes even days, to find and deliver a patient's blood in Lagos. With LifeBank, it takes just 45 minutes from the first inquiry to the delivery of the blood products. Temie says: "It wouldn't be possible without a technology like Google Maps."

Temie Giwa-Tubosun

As in many other countries, it is not easy to get people to donate blood in Nigeria. Without blood donations, there would of course be no blood reserves. Temie knew that LifeBank could only work if more people were willing to donate blood. Perhaps it helps a little that the appointments for blood donations are made quickly: Volunteers can conveniently make appointments via LifeBank - the nearest blood bank is shown on a map immediately. You can also find out exactly what to expect in the app.

1 blood donation

Half a liter of blood can save up to three lives.

The Red Cross, 2019

I was also very sick once - I almost died then. So I can understand what it feels like to receive blood from someone. Blood donors are selflessly committed to other people's lives.

Oluwaseun Adeolu LifeBank blood donor

LifeBank has networked donors with key resources and has now registered over 5,000 blood donors. When asked how she managed to mobilize so many volunteers, Temie said, "The answer to that is likely to surprise you. Most just don't have the heart to say 'no' - especially when you tell them what's up is at stake. "

To date, LifeBank has drawn more than 22,000 cans of blood and delivered to over 400 hospitals, saving more than 8,000 lives.

Update:Temie and her team continue to provide medical supplies to people in need. They are currently on the front lines fighting the spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria. LifeBank is currently providing free oxygen to hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. Together with local organizations, the team has also set up drive-thru / walk-in centers in Lagos and Ibadan where you can be tested for COVID-19. The whole of Africa can orient itself to this model for centralized COVID-19 tests. LifeBank is also working on a national database of critical medical equipment to source and repair ventilators and intensive care beds for local hospitals. See for more information.

Where can I donate blood?

Where can I donate blood?

Up to three lives can be saved with just one donation. Find out where in your community it is safe to donate blood.

Find a blood donation center near you

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