At the beginning of 2020, I started my Crown & Story campaign after my mum was diagnosed with leukaemia and lost her hair during chemotherapy treatment. Many people with leukaemia rely on blood donations (for new stem cells), as do people with sickle cell disorder to stay as healthy as possible, so I have teamed up with the Sickle Cell Society and their Give Blood, Spread Love campaign to bring you this new blog post…and there’s an extra incentive to register as a donor at the end!

Donating blood can save lives

The Sickle Cell Society (SCS) is the only national charity in the UK that supports and represents people affected by sickle cell disorder. Sickle cell disorder mostly, but not exclusively, affects people from African and Caribbean backgrounds. Approximately 15,000 people in the UK have this disorder and the Sickle Cell Society works alongside health care professionals, parents, and people living with it to raise awareness and empowers them to achieve their full potential.

What is sickle cell disorder?

Sickle cell disorder affects the haemoglobin in the red blood cells. Haemoglobin is the substance in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body and people with sickle cell disorder struggle with complications during this process. It can only be inherited from both parents each having passed on the gene for this particular disease.

1 in 76 babies born in the UK carry sickle cell trait. 

The red blood cells of people with sickle cell disorder change shape after oxygen has been released, causing them to stick together. This can lead to blockages in small blood vessels which causes painful episodes referred to as sickle cell crisis. Another common symptom of sickle cell disorder is anaemia.

How does sickle cell anaemia affect people’s lives?

Sickle cell anaemia can cause a lot of pain. This can be a chronic or constant and/or spikes of sudden debilitating pain leading to fatigue. The pain is often treated with strong painkillers such as morphine.

People living with severe sickle cell will often spend a lot of time in hospital and over time they can experience damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, heart and lungs and are at risk of complications such as strokes. 

Living with sickle cell disorder can also have a negative impact on the mental health of patients and may lead to depression and anxiety.

How does giving blood help?

A single blood donation can save or improve up to three lives. 

People suffering with severe sickle cell disorder, often need regular blood transfusions which can help prevent crisis and treat anaemia and other severe symptoms.

Currently, only 1% of blood donors in the UK are of black heritage.

We need more donors of black heritage because we want to ensure more blood-type matches. Closely matched blood makes it less likely to be rejected by people having frequent blood transfusions.

Ro sub-type
The Ro sub-type of blood is 10 times more common in black people than in white, so in order to increase the chance of finding matches for people with this sub-type we need more donors from black heritages.

Does giving blood hurt?

Following needle insertion, you should be comfortable during your donation. It will pinch for the second it takes to insert the needle, and then it will feel like a dull ache at worst. Most likely you will stop noticing it within a few minutes.

Giving blood is quick, safe and easy. A full blood donation is 470ml and will usually take between 5 and 10 minutes.

The whole donation process from start to finish takes only about an hour.

Are there any reasons why people couldn’t or shouldn’t give blood?

Most people can give blood if they are generally fit and healthy.

You need to:

  • Be aged between 17 and 66
  • Weigh between 7 stone 12lbs and 25 stone
  • Not have had a blood transfusion since 1 January 1980
  • Not be pregnant and
  • Not have sickle cell disorder. People with the sickle cell trait are still able to donate blood. 

You can find the full list here

If I can’t give blood, how else can I help the cause?

Ask others
If you can’t give blood, you can still help by encouraging your friends, families and colleagues to donate.

The Sickle Cell Society’s blood donation projects; South London Gives and Give Blood, Spread Love work with organisations, community groups and individuals to raise awareness of the need for more black-heritage people to give blood. 

We have a growing community of volunteers and social media users, ‘The Give Blood Squad’, who represent and share our message, with the aim to eradicate negative perceptions around giving blood. The squad is predominately made up of blood donors and people living with sickle cell disorder.

Educate yourself and others
If you aren’t able to donate, you can still educate your networks around the urgent need for black-heritage blood donors.

Quick links to support

Extra perk!

I hope this blog helped you understand more about sickle cell disorder and what you can do support those who need your donations. Here’s a little further incentive to register…

Have you registered to give blood? Get 30% OFF business card designs with me! Simply contact Give Blood Spread Love for the discount code (offer ends midnight 14th February 2021) and get in touch!