Give blood and become one of the lifesavers

The blood donation nurses and staff, ready for another session in Westborough Methodist Church hall. Blood donation feature. Photo by Andrew Higgins 124616a 13/11/12
The blood donation nurses and staff, ready for another session in Westborough Methodist Church hall. Blood donation feature. Photo by Andrew Higgins 124616a 13/11/12

Giving blood can mean giving the gift of life - and people in Scarborough are being encouraged to do just that.

A campaign has been launched by NHS Blood and Transplant to find 100,000 new donors in the next 100 days across our region to protect future blood stocks.

One man who is living proof of the difference giving blood can make is 52-year-old Alan Priestley, of Malton.

On Mother’s Day this year, Alan was making breakfast for his wife Joanna as a treat from himself and their one-year-old daughter Jasmine.

All of a sudden, he felt a searing pain in his face, which ran down his chest and arm.

Alan was having a massive heart attack and was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary, where he suffered a second attack and began vomiting.

It was so severe that Alan then suffered a Mallory-Weiss tear, which happens in the upper part of the stomach.

The bleeding was so bad that Alan had been given 12 pints of blood by the time the operation to repair it was finished.

He went on to have a triple heart bypass and is now making a good recovery.

Alan said: “If it wasn’t for the blood, I wouldn’t be here now.

“I want to thank everyone for giving blood. I’ve given it myself in the past and I hope I’ve helped someone as they’ve helped me.”

He added that he can’t give blood at the moment because of his health, but that his wife has now booked an appointment to donate for the first time.

Alan’s goal is now to do the Coast to Coast cycle next year for the British Heart Foundation.

Also encouraging people to get involved is long-term donor Jan Atkinson, 49, of Eastfield.

Jan has been giving blood since the early 1980s and was recently given an award by NHS Blood and Transplant for donating over 75 times.

She first started giving blood after suffering a miscarriage, which prompted her to help others in need.

Jan said: “I give blood as often as I can, which is normally three times a year.

“I had a break when I had my daughter and I’ve carried on ever since.

“It’s become part of my normal life and I feel like I’ve done my bit to help.”

Jan says that she finds the whole experience of giving blood nice and easy, just feeling a slight scratch each time.

The process normally takes 10 minutes for her and varies between donors, but the machine switches off after 15 minutes anyway.

Jan said: “I always feel fine afterwards. I would say to people at least try it - you never know when you or someone in your family might need blood.

“Tragically it often takes someone in the family to fall ill to prompt people to do it.”

She added that the sessions are always friendly and people are given a warm welcome.

Jan said that she will carry on giving blood as long as she can, and is also on the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register.

Organisers are hoping that stories like Alan and Jan’s will help people make the decision to take the plunge and give blood for the first time.

Donna Batty, NHS Blood and Transplant’s lead donor relations manager for the North East region, said: “We need 100,000 donors to sign up in the next 100 days to help us start addressing the shortfall.

“We’re asking locals to come forward and would especially welcome young people as there has been a sharp decline in this age range.

“We are lucky that in Scarborough, we have a very loyal number of regular donors. The local sessions always have a great turnout with the same familiar and friendly faces coming back time after time.

“The commitment of these local donors means we are always able to hit our targets for Scarborough and we are so grateful for this.

“Unfortunately, we have had a slight decline in the number of new donors so we would urge people to roll up their sleeve and pop down to their next session.

“There is always a number of donors who can no longer give and we rely heavily on new volunteers coming.

“This is particularly important at the moment as we have seen significantly less people signing up since the summer.

“Although this doesn’t have an impact on current supplies, this could have serious implications further down the line.

“Hopefully with the latest push for new donors, we will see this dedication continue long into the future.”

A number of celebrities are supporting the campaign, including Hollyoaks actress Jorgie Porter and designer Wayne Hemingway, who founded fashion label Red or Dead.

Jorgie said: “I really wanted to support this appeal because giving blood is such an amazing thing to do.

“Blood isn’t just needed when people have accidents – it’s also used to help treat health conditions including cancer and long term illnesses and in maternity care.

“If someone you loved needed blood you’d want it to be there, so if you can donate then please do.”

To book an appointment please call 0300 123 23 23.