Retired civil servant Peter Jones has donated his Ro blood, the type needed to treat people with sickle cell disease, more than 102 times, more than any other Black donor.
Sixty-year-old Peter from Southall started giving blood with work colleagues when he first joined the civil service more than 30 years ago. His blood type, Ro is the most in demand of any blood type as it is urgently needed to treat people with sickle cell disease, the fastest growing genetic disease in the UK. As we have reported in Melan Magazine over the years, sickle cell is more prevalent in people of Black heritage, like Peter.
Sobering new figures released for the just concluded National Blood Week (June 13 to 19) and World Sickle Cell Awareness Day (June 19) show hospital demand for Ro has gone up 57% during the past five years. This March saw the highest ever monthly demand, with hospitals asking for 6805 units of Ro blood.
Figures like these show the urgent need for donors with Ro blood. Currently, only 2% of donors have the Ro blood type and while Ro is 10 times more common in Black people than in white people, collecting enough is a constant challenge. That’s why Peter’s milestone deserves to be celebrated.
“If you can, donate – it’s easy to do and it makes such a difference to people’s lives.”
Peter is modest about how important his regular blood donations are. He said: “I’ve met some people with sickle cell and they have all said how important donations are. I am sure all blood is in demand, but I’m gratified to know that my contribution is important.”
He added: “Whatever your background, whatever your race or religion, I think it’s just a really good thing to do. If we have a diverse range of people donating, it’s good for our whole diverse society. If you can, donate – it’s easy to do and it makes such a difference to people’s lives.”
The numbers of people with sickle cell disease are increasing every year. Sickle cell is a genetic disorder which causes red blood cells to form into sickle or crescent shapes and become stuck in blood vessels, causing agonising crisis episodes, and serious or even fatal long term complications including organ damage and strokes.
Many patients rely on regular blood transfusions to stay alive. One of these patients is 39-year-old Oyesola Oni, a mother of one from Nottingham. Oyesola, who regularly receives blood to treat her sickle cell, is grateful to Peter.
She said: “For one person to have donated blood 100 times is simply amazing – that’s a lifesaver right there. I’m very grateful to Peter and on behalf of myself and every sickle warrior that receives blood – thank you Peter.”
She added: “You can’t describe the pain of a sickle cell crisis. It’s like something stabbing me, at other times it’s like something crushing my bones. It’s excruciating.”
Dr Naim Akhtar, NHSBT Consultant Haematologist and Lead in Donor Medicine, is encouraging more Black people to donate blood regularly. Especially in light of the fact that 55% of Black people have Ro blood, compared to only 2% of the wider population.
Dr Akhtar said: “Blood transfusions need to be closely matched, and this is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity. There is a rise in Black people donating blood, but we urgently need more to become regular donors.”
So, what can you do?
If you don’t know it already, find out what your blood type is and register as a regular blood donor today.
You can book an appointment by visiting blood.co.uk, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app or by calling 0300 123 23 23.