A woman from Ealing was a special guest at an exclusive preview screening of the new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever film as a thank-you for her support of a new NHS campaign to recruit more Black heritage blood donors.
Siliana Coelho, 24, who is alive thanks to blood donors, was among 300 ‘specially invited’ NHS Blood and Transplant supporters attending the screening at Hackney Picturehouse.
The NHS Blood and Transplant team partnered with the Marvel Studios film in the next stage in its ‘Not Family, But Blood’ campaign to encourage more people of Black heritage to donate blood to help sickle cell patients, amongst others.
This is the NHS Blood and Transport’s third film partnership with Disney and its second with Marvel Studios following collaborations with Free Guy in 2021 and Doctor Strange In the Multiverse.
Siliana, from Ealing, shared her story for the campaign launch and explained that she ‘would not be alive without donors’ and why matched blood is so important.
Siliana was diagnosed at birth and she describes sickle cell as dictating every part of her life. She experiences frequent episodes of excruciating pain. Her worst crisis came in 2018 when the sickle cells blocked the blood vessels in her lungs. She needed an emergency red cell exchange and spent three weeks in hospital. The following year she shared a video of herself experiencing an agonising crisis which went viral on Twitter.
Siliana was joined at Thursday evening’s screening by patients, donors and NHS Blood and Transplant partners and supporters.
She said: “It was an amazing experience meeting all types of people coming together for one cause – to raise awareness of the urgent need for more Black heritage blood donors – while also reaping the rewards to enjoy it as one big community.
“Great night, great people and more! It was also a great opportunity for people to find out their blood type and to spread the message about why ethnically matched blood is so important for people like me.”
Zeeshan Asghar, Head of Commercial Partnerships for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We were delighted to welcome Siliana to the preview screening as part of our collaboration with Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. We very much hope she enjoyed the event.
“By sharing her story about living with sickle cell, Siliana has helped to raise awareness of the life-changing difference blood donors make – not only for herself but for the many other patients who rely on matched blood.
“We hope that the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever collaboration will help us to reach a new Black audience with this powerful message, and encourage more people of Black African and Black Caribbean heritage to become blood donors.”
The ‘Not Family, But Blood’ campaign generated record numbers of registrations from people of Black African and Black Caribbean heritage when it launched in October.
In the first day 884 people of Black heritage signing up to donate – the highest ever single day figure. During the first week there were 1,866 registrations from people of Black Caribbean and Black African heritage – a 700 percent uplift on the previous week.
It is hoped the collaboration with Marvel Studios will further boost the campaign by reaching more people of Black heritage, particularly younger film fans who may not have considered blood donation. People aged 16-24 are especially needed as they are the donors of the future. The average age of Black heritage donors registering in the first week of the campaign was 31.
The ‘Not Family But Blood’ NHS campaign highlights that although the Black community is diverse, one unifying thing is the power to provide life-changing blood donations. This thought is amplified in the people of Wakanda – different tribes, but together they are stronger, supporting and protecting their community.
Ethnically matched blood provides the best treatment for sickle cell and more Black heritage donors are urgently needed to meet increasing demand. Hospitals in England now need 250 donations every day to treat sickle cell compared with 150 five years ago.
Dr Farrukh Shah, Medical Director of Transfusion for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “The critical shortage of blood donations from people of a Black heritage means many sickle cell patients often receive less well-matched blood.
“While this is clinically suitable, it can pose a longer-term risk to patients who receive regular transfusions. We urgently need more Black heritage donors to come forward. Giving blood is quick, easy and safe.”