New figures show 29% increase in black blood donors but urgent shortage remains
NHS Blood and Transplant has brought together a woman with the rare blood disease and a donor who has helped keep her alive.
Solome Mealin received a transfusion of blood from Zamzam Aba-Nur. NHS Blood Transplant used its treatment records and its donor database to bring the two together at its specialist unit where Solome is treated, NHSBT’s Therapeutic Apheresis Services Unit in Leeds. (1) Solome and Zamzam are supporting NHS Blood and Transplant’s urgent call for black people to register blood donors over Sickle Cell Awareness Month (September).
More black blood donors than ever are saving lives. New NHSBT figures show the number of black blood donors has grown by 29% over the past three years in response to urgent appeals but the situation is still very serious – NHS Blood and Transplant still needs 40,000 new black blood donors. (2) Zamzam walked into the Therapeutic Apheresis Services Unit and Solome gave each other an emotional hug and a thank you card from her children, watched by nurses who clapped and wiped away tears.
Solome, aged 39, a mum of three from Burmantofts in Leeds, whose own mother died of sickle cell disease, told Zamzam: “Your blood is coursing through my veins. Because of you and blood donation I can have time with my children. I never had a chance to be with my mum. Because of blood donors, I am here watching them grow up. I cannot thank you enough.”
The red blood cells of sickle cell patients form into a sickle or crescent moon shape. These deformed cells can block blood vessels, causing agonising pain, and creating a risk of organ damage, stroke, and death. Solome receives transfusions of eight units of blood every six weeks to reduce the risks. Solome added: “Without blood I suffer horrendous pain, even with morphine. Blood donors like Zamzam are angels sent by God. To people from a black background I just want to say ‘please, donate blood. You will be a lifesaver’.”
Zamzam, 26, a mental health nurse from Old Trafford in Greater Manchester, said: “I started donating when I saw people getting transfusions during nursing placements. It gives me a buzz to get the text message saying where your blood has gone but I never expected to meet someone who had my
blood.” She added: “When you donate, it’s really simple and you just get on with your day – meeting Solome has brought home that it’s actually life changing for someone else. I feel very lucky to have seen how my donations are making a difference.”
People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have the same blood types. The shortage of black blood donors makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black patients. There is a great need for donors with the Ro blood subtype, which is more commonly found in black people, and
which is shared by both Zamzam and Solome. (3).
Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation said: “This month we can celebrate how more and more black people are saving lives by donating blood. “However the shortage of black donors remains, which makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black people, putting them at greater risk of potentially life threatening transfusion reactions. Blood donation is quick, easy and safe and we urge black people inspired by Zamzam and Solome to register as donors today.”
Become a blood donor. Register today and book and appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app, or visiting blood.co.uk