Black blood donors urgently needed to help sickle cell patients live a normal life

News Desk (01 May, 2019) Health

Black people are ten times more likely than white people to have the vitally important Ro blood subtype, which is key for treating sickle cell disease

29203Fifty-five-year-old sickle cell patient Calvin Campbell receiving a blood exchange

New figures reveal an urgent shortage of black blood donors in London, as the NHS launches a recruitment drive, writes Josh Mellor…

Four thousand new black blood donors are needed across London to help sickle cell patients who need regular transfusions.

People from black African, black Caribbean and mixed heritage backgrounds are more likely to have the rare Ro blood subtype vital for these patients.

The disease can cause extreme pain, life-threatening infections and other complications such as organ failure, stroke or loss of vision but blood transfusions help to prevent or relieve the painful symptoms and complications.

Nadine Eaton, head of blood donation campaigns for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “More and more black people in London are saving lives by donating blood but there is still a shortage of donors.

“People from similar ethnic backgrounds are more likely to have matching blood but the shortage of black donors means some black people with sickle cell disease in London don’t always get the best matched blood.

“Blood donation is quick, easy and safe. You will save lives – and feel proud.”

Sickle cell is the most common and fastest growing genetic disorder in the UK and many of the 15,000 people living with the disease rely on frequent blood transfusions to lead normal lives.

Although around sixteen percent of London’s population is black, black people currently only make up only five percent of the city’s blood donor base.

Calvin Campbell who has sickle cell and lives in north London said: “I have had transfusions and exchanges postponed because of a lack of well-matched blood, and I have seen the impact on others of receiving blood that isn’t the ideal match.

“I don’t think enough black people understand the need to give blood or realise that people like me depend on donors of the same ethnic background.

“When people understand, they are willing to give.”

Mr Campbell receives ten units of blood a month through an exchange after being diagnosed with sickle cell at six months old, he now sings in the B Positive Choir to promote blood donation.

There are three dedicated blood donor centres in London: West End Donor Centre, Margaret Street, W1 8NB; Tooting Donor Centre, 75 Cranmer Terrace, Tooting SW17 0RB; and Edgware Donor Centre, Westgate House, Edgware Community Hospital, Burnt Oak Broadway, Edgware, HA8 0AD.

All have free WiFi and operate with evening and weekend opening hours.

To register as a donor and book and appointment, visit: blood.co.uk

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