Blood banks across the UK rely on 400 new donors each day to meet the demand they are under, they need around 40,000 new black blood donors and 135,000 new donors each year to ensure that their supply is never under too much pressure, with countries around the world also facing a constant battle to maintain their banks.
When you donate blood, your blood – and its distinct components – are used to treat patients with medical conditions including anaemia, blood cancers and those undergoing surgery. Blood transfusions are the most common use of donated blood, which is often vital for surgery and to treat heavy blood loss, but they are also commonly used to generally improve the quality of people’s lives where there is no cure for their condition.
On average, 104 people a day are diagnosed with blood cancer. There are three main types; leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. These diseases are so life threatening because they inhibit a persons’ immune system from working properly. Not only does the cancer itself present a threat, once the immune system is affected, people become vulnerable to infections they body would ordinarily be able to fight off.
The Anthony Nolan charity, set up by Anthony Nolan’s mother who was unable to find a donor to treat her son’s rare blood disorder, matches individuals willing to donate their blood stem cells or bone marrow with people who desperately need life-saving transplants. There are over 2000 people in the UK in need of a transplant every year. Currently, only 69% of patients can find their best possible match from a stranger, and this drops dramatically to 20% if you’re a patient from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background. For many people, a transplant is a last chance at life but as both the donor and recipient must have the same tissue type and there are millions of combinations, finding a suitable match is extremely complicated.
You can join the Anthony Nolan stem cell register here.