World Blood Donor Day 2019 by Lauren Smith

When I think about giving blood I always think about that voiceover from the TV advert saying “Do something amazing – give blood”. I always thought people like my Dad who gave blood were heroes! But now I donate, I don’t feel like a hero. Every time I attend I get a thank you from the nurses and a smile of recognition from my fellow donors as I nibble my post-donation chocolate biscuit, awaiting my compulsory 5 minute wait before I can scurry off back into the crowd. Everyone is desperate to show their appreciation and gratitude. To thank me for “doing something amazing”. But I’m not amazing. I’m just a blood donor.

I registered as a donor in 2012, but only gave blood for the first time in 2014. Too busy. Not enough time. I forgot. I’ll go next week. Or my personal favourite of the time ‘It’s alright, they probably wouldn’t miss me’. But it turns out they did miss me, as my blood type is only shared by 8% of the whole population of the United Kingdom. That’s not to say that only 8% of all donors in the UK could save the life of someone with my blood type if ever they needed it, but it certainly shocked and ashamed me when I realised how many opportunities I missed to save someone else’s life!

On 22 May 2017 when Manchester saw the Arena bombing, with so much death and destruction, the queues of people in the street desperate to donate blood in the following days made me smile. This was the side of humanity I loved the most – our desire to do good. To help others. So many people wanted to save a life of a stranger they turned many away. THAT was amazing! So why can’t we do this all the time?

Thinking about reasons why people decide to donate blood, I guess it varies. Some donate for the warm fuzzy feeling, some for the badges and awards, some for the free biscuit and hot drink, some for the thank you, and some to save the life of a family member, or a friend, neighbour or even a stranger. Me? I just like to feel I’m doing my part. One day I may need blood. I may need my life to be saved by a kind stranger who gave up an hour of their time once every 16 weeks to donate blood to someone they’ve never met. A stranger who may never know they saved my life. But I’ll thank them all the same.

So today do something amazing and give blood. For your family. For your friend. For your neighbour. Or just for yourself. But don’t just sign up to be a blood donor, actually attend! Keep that appointment, don’t let anything get in the way. Find the thing that motivates you and stick to it. Because the life you save might just be mine!

 

The Stats:

  1. The NHS needs:
  • Nearly 400 new donors a day to meet demand
  • Around 135,000 new donors a year to replace those who can no longer donate
  • 40,000 more black donors to meet growing demand for better-matched blood
  • 30,000 new donors with priority blood types such as O negative every year
  • More young people to start giving blood so we can make sure we have enough blood in the future.
  1. In the UK, 15,000 people have sickle cell disease and over 300 babies are born each year with the condition. The condition can cause extreme pain, life-threatening infections and other complications such as stroke or loss of vision. To get the best treatment, patients need blood which is closely matched. This is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity. However, currently only 1% of blood donors in England are black.
  1. Half as many men became blood donors as women last January, despite their blood being more effective for treating certain patients. While almost 14,000 women registered in January 2018 and went on to become blood donors, just over 6,000 men did the same.

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