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'My six-year-old lives because of kindness of black donor'

LIVE-SAVING DONATION: Kehinde Salami, founder of Sicklekan Sickle Cell Foundation, with his daughter Angel

WHILE MANY of us use this time of the year to set what we hope will be life-changing goals, they are rarely life-saving resolutions – but NHS Blood and Transplant are urging black people to do just that by registering as donors.

Last year more than 400 black people became New Year donors, meaning they registered to give blood last January and continued that commitment throughout the year.

Kehinde Salami, founder and CEO of Sicklekan Sickle Cell Foundation, campaigns to encourage more people from the black community to donate.

Last year Sicklekan Sickle Cell Foundation held three blood drives and they are currently working with the NHS to organise a further four for 2019.

For those, thinking of making blood donation one of their new year’s resolutions, Salami said: “Giving blood is vital especially if we need to address the fact that only one per cent of black people do so, this means that people who look like us could die.”

The NHS are looking to recruit an extra 40,000 people from black African, black Caribbean and mixed heritage backgrounds to come forward as blood donors, as they are more likely to have the Ro blood type which can help people with sickle cell, a genetically inherited blood disorder.

A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant said: "Patients with this condition often require regular blood transfusions. Blood transfusions from donors with a similar ethnic background give the best match and outcomes in the long term. Improvements in the way the NHS treats sickle cell patients have led to an 80 per cent increase in demand for Ro blood over the last three years."

GIVING: Sicklekan Sickle Cell Foundation held a number of blood drives with the NHS last year

Salami has personal experience of the life-saving impact a blood donor can have. His daughter, a sickle cell patient, had her life saved thanks to a black blood donor.

He told The Voice: “Living with sickle cell disease is not easy, it’s the hardest thing people affected with the condition will have to live with in their entire lives. A sickle cell crisis episode can affect you out of the blood and the pain and complications from it can be life-threatening.

"You could be that person that saves a child, teenager, a father, mother that has the condition by your gift of blood, I have a six-year-old daughter that's alive because of the kindness of a black blood donor."

BRIGHT FUTURE: Kehinde with his son Amari and daughter Angel

There is a particular call for more men to donate as there blood is more likely to contain fewer antibodies against red and white blood cells, meaning their blood can be more suitable for creating blood products used to treat patients.

Mike Stredder, director of blood donation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It’s vital that more men start donating blood because their blood is used to provide life-saving products like plasma and platelets – to save victims of burns, car crashes and treat to patients with cancer.

“We’re incredibly grateful to all our female donors who are vital in providing lifesaving blood to those in need. But we need men to catch up with recent recruitment because their blood can have different characteristics which can make it important in certain situations.”

Harmful myths around blood donation can prevent many viable black donors from undergoing the simple procedure that can have an incredible impact.

A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant told The Voice: "The blood donation process takes around an hour from start to finish and involves a detailed health check which ensures the safety of the person giving blood and also the person receiving the blood. It’s a relatively painless process and those who give blood speak about their pride in helping others, knowing that it has cost them nothing but time to potentially save the lives of three people in one go."

Salami said one of the biggest misconceptions that he’s come across is around blood harvesting, the belief that donations are used to keep the rich elite living. In reality, donated blood is used to help patients of all backgrounds survive accidents, debilitating health conditions and to live life to the full.

“Those living with sickle cell disease may depend on regular transfusions to have a better quality of life, or in the case of a young warrior like my daughter, needing a blood transfusion or face the alternative of dying.

"We need more black blood donors to come forward to address this issue, save lives and actually know that they can be real life superheroes while doing so,” he said.

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