I’ve given blood on one occasion back in April 2017. Fast forward to 2020, since my last successful appointment in April 2017, I’ve unfortunately had three failed attempts in February 2018, February 2019 and August 2019. To save a wasted journey I’d highly recommend reading this checklist before booking an appointment. The reason my appointments have been unsuccessful has been due to my thin veins and the struggle to get enough blood out. Naturally the nurses sympathise and say it’s not your fault, however the last nurse looked at the tears in my eyes and track record of three unsuccessful appointments and gently said perhaps I should try again in about ‘five years’. I ignored that advice and have booked another appointment for later this month, I’m hoping to be fourth time lucky!
Each time I’ve gone in for a blood donation appointment I’ve been the only black person. So why don’t black people generally donate their blood? I believe the reason is cultural, I know my parents were far from keen when they heard I’d donated blood, it’s not something that’s typically been done within the community. As donating blood is quite uncommon, people aren’t as likely to donate because they don’t personally know anyone else who does either. Also I believe there’s an underlying sense of fear and mistrust particularly in terms of concerns that the donation may potentially lead to personal health issues. In fact someone did ask me when I mentioned I’d donated that what if further down the line I need blood, but I’ve donated too much? Well various studies have suggested that blood donors actually have a lower risk of developing life-threatening diseases.
Currently, statistics indicate that blood donations amongst the black and minority ethnic groups are consistently much lower than other donations, with black donations comprising a mere 1% in the UK. Ironically, the black community is one of the communities that needs blood donations most, yet the demand (particularly from patients with sickle cell disease) far outweighs the low supply.
Oddly, some argued that requesting specifically for black blood donations was racist (confused.com) but the scientific fact that black blood donations are needed is far from racist and was excellently explained by #GiveBloodNHS.
In a nutshell, black people are more likely to suffer from sickle cell disease. Patients with sickle cell disease that have the ‘Ro’ subtype (an extremely rare blood subtype with a certain combination of genes which only roughly 2% of blood donors in England have) ideally need blood donations of the ‘Ro’ subtype. The Ro subtype is more than 10 times as common in individuals from Black African or Black Caribbean ethnic backgrounds, than in individuals with ethnic backgrounds and helps those with sickle cell disease.
Currently #GiveBloodNHS has launched a campaign seeking for more black donations. With this being the start of the new year, why not try something new. Giving blood can be a daunting experience but I would recommend trying it out once (you might actually enjoy it). Another bonus is you find out your blood type (if you don’t know it already). Most importantly, you’re highly likely to ultimately save a black brother or sister’s life!