Donate blood to save a life

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ECHO reporter Kevin Clark is proof that giving blood couldn’t be easier.

Our business reporter was first in line to give blood at Sunderland’s regular Burn Park Methodist Church session as part of our Chloe’s Call-Up campaign.

Kevin has been giving blood regularly for the past seven years, earning himself a silver award – meaning he has donated between 25 and 49 times.

“I first donated when I worked in Runcorn about 20 years ago,” he said. “But I fell out of the habit when I moved back to the North East.

“I decided to make a real effort to starting donating again a few years back and I’m really glad I did. I’ve clocked up 27 donations now, so it’s reasonable to assume there are a few people walking around with a pint of Chateau Clark ’67 inside them.

“Giving blood takes less than an hour, three times a year, and it could hardly be easier. It’s a great pity that 96 per cent of people don’t do something that costs so little of your time but could, literally, be the difference between life and death for someone.

“It’s amazing how often you tell people you’re a donor to be met with ‘Oh, I’ve always meant to do that ...’ If anyone has been meaning to donate but never quite got round to it, then please make the effort to do so.

“It requires just a few minutes of your time – how many of us genuinely can’t spare a couple of hours a year?

“The popular image is of blood being needed for emergency situations but the reality is donations can also be used to help people with a range of ongoing medical conditions. Donors receive a regular magazine from the Blood Service which highlights the different way in which their donations can help.

“And giving couldn’t be easier. You have to answer a questionnaire on personal history to make sure you’re not in a high-risk group and haven’t recently been exposed to anything that could stop you giving .

“I had a dodgy moment this time because there’s a ban on donors who’ve recently been to Greece because of some viral outbreak there. I’ve just come back from Crete and it looked as though I might not be able to give – but fortunately, it turns out the ban only applies to people who’ve been to the mainland.

“Then you have to drink some water. This is quite a recent change – apparently research has shown drinking shortly before giving blood makes the donation easier. After that there’s a finger prick test, in which a tiny sample of blood is checked for haemoglobin content. Assuming that’s okay, you’re ready to donate.

“And don’t worry if you’ve got a thing about needles, it really doesn’t hurt. You just lie there pumping your fist for 20 minutes or so to keep the blood flowing, then it’s time for your tea and biscuits.

“You spend five or 10 minutes sitting there, to make sure there are no ill effects from the donation and that’s it for another four months.”

WE launched our Chloe’s Call-Up campaign calling on readers to give the gift of life by signing up to give blood to help keep little Chloe Gray and other sick babies alive.

The 14-month-old, who suffers from Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, has to have a life-saving blood transfusion every four weeks.

Her parents Francesca Gray and Craig Bowser are calling for people to give blood.

With autumn approaching, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is reminding donors to help build extra reserves in the run-up to winter.

Darren Bowen, of NHSBT, said: “We understand that September is a busy time for many people, but the demand for blood never stops.

“It is also the start of coughs and colds season and to ensure we are able to maintain blood supplies to hospital it is important that blood donors continue to come forward and donate.”

For details of sessions or to book an appointment, call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.blood.