A bank manager with an inherited blood disorder who needs regular transfusions, is urging Asians to become donors following a dramatic drop in the numbers of people giving blood in the past decade.
Monica Korpal made the plea ahead of National Blood Week from June 8-14, as new figures revealed there was a 40 per cent drop in blood donors in 2014 and 2015 compared to 10 years earlier. In total, 120,000 fewer people attended a session to start donating blood, which is crucial to saving and improving the lives of patients with cancer, and those undergoing surgery, over the past decade.
Korpal requires two units of blood every three weeks, and has had transfusions since she was just 18 months old. The 38-year-old has beta thalassaemia major, which can leave her feeling drowsy and breathless with aches and pains from bone thinning, but she is able to lead an otherwise normal life thanks to transfusions.
“Blood donation means a heck of a lot to me. It means I can lead a normal life. Without blood, I wouldn’t be here. I really support the need for more blood donors, including more Asian donors,” she said.
“I try to spread the word to friends and family and through work networks. I don’t think people in the Asian community understand how much blood is actually needed.
“A lot of Asians traditionally kept illness behind closed doors because there was a stigma attached. For example, people would worry that a daughter would not get married.
“My father is a doctor, so he was very informed and well respected. Everybody in the community knew I had the illness and I would get up and give talks in the local community centre,” she added.
Korpal’s blood disorder, which is more common among Asians, affects haemoglobin which carries the body’s blood, and if left untreated, the most serious type of the illness can cause organ damage, restricted growth, liver disease, heart failure and death.
NHS Blood and Transplant, which is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs, needs 6,500 more donations from black, Asian and mixed-race people this year compared to 2014.
The donations are urgently needed to reflect the changing population as patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia – which are more prevalent in black and Asians, and who often require regular transfusions – directly benefit from receiving blood from people who come from a similar ethnic background.
Jon Latham, assistant director for donor services and marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “There has been a reduction in the number of new donors coming forward in this country (a trend seen across the world). While we can meet the needs of patients now, it’s important we strengthen the donor base for the future.
“If we don’t attract new people across England and north Wales to donate, it will put more pressure on the ability to provide the right type of blood the NHS needs for patients in the future.
“As the country is becoming more ethnically diverse, it’s important that our donors reflect these diverse backgrounds. Giving blood is simple and easy to do and will only take about an hour of your time. Your donation could literally be a matter of life and death for somebody else from your community.”
Certain blood types, such as B positive, are more common among black and Asians, while some rare forms are only found in these communities. To help raise awareness of the need for all new blood donors, NHS Blood and Transplant has been removing the letters A, O and B which make up the blood groups from their name in campaign literature. The Missing Type drive highlights the fact that if not enough new people come forward to donate blood and these types were to go missing in years to come, there wouldn’t be enough blood available when patients need it. If you are 17 or over, visit http://www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23 to find out if you are eligible to donate. Download the app by searching ‘NHSGiveBlood’ in the App store. It’s available for Android, Windows and Apple smartphone and tablet devices.