Give the gift of life this Christmas

NHS Blood and Transplant is calling on the East of England public to give the ultimate Christmas present this year - the gift of life – by becoming a blood donor.

Statistics reveal that as the decorations go up, blood stocks go down. And with December appointments nationally already far lower than the yearly average, some 15,000 fewer in 2010, a concerted effort is needed.

Julie Coomber (38), from Essex, has more reason to celebrate Christmas than most people this year, after surviving a series of major operations last December, following complications giving birth to her second son.

Major internal bleeding meant Julie needed blood transfusions involving 38 units of blood – six times the average amount we need in our body. Julie’s family were told she may not live to see Christmas Day, or at best, would lose both her legs after surgeons took drastic measures to determine where she was losing the blood from. Without these blood transfusions, Julie is in no doubt that she wouldn’t have survived, leaving behind her husband Mark and two sons Matthew (5) and Adam, who has just turned one.

Julie pays tribute to those who donate blood: “I owe my life to people’s generous donations. I was very lucky my heart did not give in with the rapid blood loss I suffered.  I feel fortunate to still be here and have my two gorgeous boys and husband around me.

“Before this happened to me, I always intended to give blood, but in 2007 I was diagnosed as having a bowel disease (ulcerated colitis) which prevented any donation from me. I regret not giving blood previously and felt there was always a reason to put it off. So my message to those thinking about giving blood is don’t put it off, do it today. There’s always going to be some excuse or distraction. Your contribution could mean the difference between life and death. It did for me.

Talking about the importance of donating blood this festive period, East of England Lead Donor Relations Manager Derek Carr said: “By giving blood you’ll be giving the greatest Christmas present of all – the gift of life. Just one unit of blood can save the life of three adults or seven babies. It is truly a ‘money cannot buy’ present. Donating blood is one of the best Christmas gifts you can give. For those needing blood transfusions, blood donors really are their lifeline. Ninety-six per cent of us rely on the other four per cent to give blood. Please don’t leave it to someone else.”

People need to receive blood for a variety of reasons including childbirth, accidents, cancer and surgery.

The NHS needs 7,000 units of donated blood every day and 230,000 new donors each year to help maintain blood stock levels. Thousands of lives are saved or improved thanks to selfless blood donors.

NHSBT is also working to boost stocks of O Rh negative (O-) and B Rh negative (B-) blood throughout December and is asking for people with these blood types to come forward and donate in the run up to Christmas.

You can start donating from the age of 17. So do something amazing this festive season and call 0300-123-2323 or visit the www.blood.co.uk website to find out about your nearest blood donation session.

For more information about blood donation or to make an appointment visit www.blood.co.uk, call 0300-123-2323 or follow NHSBT at http://www.facebook.com/NHSBlood or www.twitter.com/NHSGiveBlood