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'Donors are heroes – so join now to save lives'

INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL: Sheron Williamson, top, was able to see her daughter grow up after she received a heart transplant

BIRMINGHAM’S BLACK community is being urged to register to donate blood and organs by the NHS.

The Black History Month celebrations in the city and the testimony of a woman who received a new heart are being used by the health service’s Blood and Transplant service to replenish the low reserves of donors to help black patients who need lifesaving or life-enhancing treatment.

DISEASE There has been a steady increase in those from African and African-Caribbean backgrounds giving blood over the last few years.

Almost 1,400 black people in Birmingham signed up to give blood in 2017 – more than double the 569 who did in 2013.

So far this year almost 1,000 new black blood donors have registered in the city.

Across England there are now more than 17,000 active blood donors from black backgrounds, compared with fewer than 13,000 five years ago.

However, 40,000 more blood donors are needed from black African, black Caribbean and mixed heritage backgrounds, as they are more likely to have the Ro blood type, which can help people with sickle cell disease.

The number of black people donating their organs after they have died and those donating a kidney during their lifetime remains low and more black people donating organs are also urgently needed.

Last year, 25 people from black backgrounds donated organs posthumously. While this is an increase compared with 17 five years earlier, black families are still less likely to go ahead with organ donation than white families.

However, the declining number of living organ donors from the black community mirrors the trend across all ethnicities.

Last year, 17 black people donated a kidney as a living donor, less than half the figure of five years earlier.

The demand is evident when considering the need: currently there are 632 black people in the UK waiting for a transplant, usually a kidney – and 31 black patients died while waiting.

The severe shortage of organ donors from black backgrounds means that black people wait, on average, more than six months longer for a kidney transplant than people from white backgrounds.

Sheron Williamson, 50, below left, from Solihull, near Birmingham, needed a transplant due to viral myocarditis. She told the media: “My life was turned upside-down in 2011 when I was told I needed a heart transplant. I had spent months in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital but prior to that I was fit and healthy, running 30 miles a week.

DISTRAUGHT
“Without the transplant I was told I would have about 12 days to live. As a mother to a 14-year-old daughter I was distraught, but four days later I was given the gift of a new heart.

“Without this I would not have been able to see my daughter grow up.

“I don’t think people in our community talk enough about organ donation and that needs to change.

“During Black History Month we celebrate our black heroes of history, but donors are heroes, too. Please join them.

“Talk to your family and discuss your wishes. Sign up, be an organ donor and save lives in our community. After nine nights have come and gone, an organ transplant can gift someone, nine months, nine years or even 19 years.”

During Black History Month NHS Blood and Transplant is holding a number of events across the country to raise awareness and boost donor numbers.

The activity is part of a Government campaign being led by NHS Blood and Transplant to break down barriers to donation that exist within black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.

Sally Johnson, interim chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Donors save and improve lives. More than 2,300 people from the black community are alive today thanks to an organ transplant.

“Many of the 15,000 people living with sickle cell disease in the UK depend on frequent blood transfusions to lead normal lives. We need 10 blood donors to make each transfusion possible.

“We are incredibly grateful to every person who gives blood and joins the NHS Organ Donor Register, and to those inspirational families who say yes to organ donation after a loved one has died.

“More black people are saving lives in these ways. But there is still an urgent need for people in the black community to help others who depend on a match with a donor from a similar ethnic background.

ACTION

“Please, make this month the time you take action to save lives. Sign up as a blood donor and join the NHS Organ Donor Register, and talk to your family and friends about your decision.”

There is a dedicated blood donor centre at Birmingham Donor Centre, 65 New Street, Birmingham, which is open Monday to Friday and alternate Saturdays.

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.organdonation. nhs.uk. To give blood or to register as a donor, call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www. blood.co.uk. For more on the campaigns, visit www. organdonation.nhs.uk/blackhistory-month and www. blood.co.uk/black-historymonth.

Got a story for West Midlands News? Contact Veron Graham on
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