Figures released today to mark the end of Sickle Cell Awareness Month (September) show that black people in Harrow are responding to the urgent need for donors.
Over the past year, 18.9% more black people have started donating blood in Harrow. Mobile sessions are held across the borough in community venues such as church halls.
NHS Blood and Transplant is now urging more black people in Harrow to register as blood donors and save lives because the overall shortage of donors remains.
People supporting the appeal include Mark Scarlett, aged 53, from Pinner, who is one of the most prolific black donors in the area, with 96 blood donations to date. Each donation can save up to three lives so Mark has potentially saved the lives of 288 people.
Mark, who works in a sales role producing branded merchandise, said his Dad, both brothers, two sons and his two eldest nieces are all regular donors too.
He said: “I was brought up old school – you hold the door open for people, you help wherever you can and you give without expecting to receive. Giving blood is a great way of helping others who need this valuable resource during crucial times in their lives.”
Mark has donated whilst also being a regular gym goer and has also earned a black belt in Kuk Sool Won which is a Korean martial art and up until a couple of months ago used to cycle the 12 miles to the office and back at least once a week.
“Some people say donating stops you being active but I actually think it helps my training and fitness since I’m replenishing myself with fresh blood and still train twice a week in both the gym and Kuk Sool Won, even in the weeks I donate, although I won’t train in the 48 hours after donating” said Mark.
He is very much aware of the need for more black blood donors, especially to help people with sickle cell disease and was once called upon specifically to donate to someone who needed a life-saving operation as he was one of only twenty people in the country with the exact blood match that was needed.
Mark said: “You hear many reasons why people can’t or won’t donate, from conspiracy theories to those who simply can’t be bothered but what can help is sharing more stories of people like myself who are regular blood donors living an active lifestyle knowing that donating regularly does not prevent me from training, working or even going out clubbing.”
People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have the same blood types. However the shortage of black blood donors makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black patients.
Nationally, new NHSBT figures show that the number of black blood donors has grown over the past three years in response to urgent appeals in recent years but the situation is still very serious – NHS Blood and Transplant still needs 40,000 new black donors nationally.
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.
Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation, said: “This month we can celebrate how more and more black people in Harrow 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 people of black heritage in Harrow to register as donors to help save lives.”
- 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