Melissa Bime was supposed to have a nice safe career as a nurse. It’s a job that’s acceptable for women to have in her country, Cameroon. Upending the medical system of the nation is not expected of young Cameroonian women, but that’s what Bime has been doing.
When she was all of 17, nurse-in-training Bime saw a five-year-old die for want of the right strain of blood for a transfusion. The following week, she discovered that the blood match was in a hospital only 20 minutes away.
By the time she graduated from nursing school, she realized that the entire health system of the country was broken, and she had resolved to fix it. At the advanced age 20, she started raising money for what would, in 2016, become Infiuss, “a blood bank management system that connects hospitals with blood banks to hospitals without blood banks.”
Her blood databank is now serving over 900 hospitals, cutting the week it used to take to get a transfusion down to an hour.
It hasn’t been easy.
Donors are crucial because blood banks in Cameroon don’t release blood until replacement donors have been found. But many people don’t know that the human body replaces the blood donated; others have superstitions Bime has to overcome. “In Cameroon,” she reports, “blood is often seen as a taboo. We’ve had to spend a lot of time convincing potential donors that the blood they donate won’t be used to do ‘magic’, as some believe, but to save lives.”
Despite all this, she’s enlisted over 800 donors, creating a database of blood types, locations, and availability. And she's devised a network of motorbikes to do pick ups and deliveries fast. In its first year, Infiuss transported more than 2,300 bags of blood to patients who might have otherwise died.
All this in a place where the government and the culture don’t support pushy young women upsetting The Way Things Are Done. And she’s not finished. Her ultimate goal... “To change the way health care works in Cameroon. . . . I am hungry to create change and make a difference. I have overcome so much but know that it is all worthwhile.”