BLOG: World Blood Donor Day 2024

12/06/2024

A colleague at Spectrum shares her story about what blood donation means to her;

“It’s World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) on Friday 14 June, and aside from my birthday and Mother’s Day… I like to think of it as a day to celebrate myself!

Jokes aside, blood donation is a passionate subject of mine. As of January 2024, there are approximately 798,000 people in the UK who regularly give blood, and I am grateful and honoured to be a part of that number.

WBDD was held for the first time in 2004, set up by four core international institutions (including the World Health Organisation) to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products, and to thank blood donors for their voluntary, life-saving gifts of blood. It is celebrated on the birthday anniversary of Karl Landsteiner, born on 14 June 1868. Landsteiner was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the ABO blood group system, the Rhesus factor, and his research on blood transfusions – leading to the first one ever performed, in 1907.

blood donation UK 2024On the 20th anniversary year of WBDD, I wanted to share my story and thoughts about donating, with you.

First off – if you know me, you’ll understand why people think it’s pretty fitting that my blood type is B Positive!

I first learnt about blood donation as a young child, when I found an old newspaper clipping of my father donating blood in the 70s. I remember asking him a lot of questions about his donations, and being excited to grow old enough to donate.

Although modern blood transfusion has its roots in the First World War, the creation of UK’s blood banks mostly came about after the outbreak of the Second World War. Then in September 1946, our Ministry of Health took control of Britain’s blood banks, launching the National Blood Transfusion Service – two years before the NHS began.

My first experience of giving blood happened during my first month of university in 2003, when I was 19. I was super excited when I saw the two enormous donation vans parked up. I won’t even deny how happy I was about discovering the post-donation incentive of free crisps, chocolate and biscuits… more than enough to entice any hungry uni student! Over the years, there have been times where I’ve been unable to donate (due to tattoos, or piercings, or illness, or pregnancy, or the lockdowns) – but since January 2022, I have donated blood every four months without fail.

It has been especially important for me to donate, after I found out that only 9% of the UK population share my blood type; my donations are pretty valuable. I then did a bit more research and discovered that the B+ blood type is used almost exclusively for two specific diseases; Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD) and Thalassemia. Both involve defective and/or less haemoglobin in a person’s blood, leading to serious complications – including anaemia, vision/hearing loss, severe pains, ulcers and stroke. Around 15,000 people in England have SCD, and it occurs predominantly in Black and Asian populations. World Sickle Cell Awareness Day is coming up (held every year on June 19) which seems pretty apt. I am continually grateful for my good health and the ability to donate for the past 21 years – and hopeful that if I (or any of my loved ones) were ever in the situation of needing a blood transfusion, then blood would be readily available to us. This will only be possible if people continue to donate.

Anyone who is between 17-66 years old and fits the criteria is able to give blood, with the donation process much more streamlined these days. A decade ago, it was a bit harder to book or find appointments – but since the arrival of the NHS Give Blood app, it’s a breeze. They also send me monthly newsletters, as well as a notification of the exact hospital that has received my blood. My most recent donation (last month) was given to Hull Royal Infirmary. Less than one hour of your time could save up to three lives. With the recent cyber attacks on hospitals in London, blood donations are more important than ever. If you have never donated before (but feel interested), you can read more about the start of the donation process here. Happy WBDD!”

 

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