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London patient who nearly died from transfusion supports call for more people of black heritage to donate blood

Lanre Ogundimu from Lambeth nearly died after developing an antibody during a transfusion.

19 June 2019

This Sickle Cell Awareness Day (Wednesday 19 June 2019), NHS Blood and Transplant is highlighting the experience of a London woman who nearly died from a transfusion reaction to show the need for more black blood donors.

Lanre Ogundimu from Lambeth (pictured) has sickle cell disease, a rare inherited blood disorder, and like many patients she has required blood transfusions to cope with serious and life-threatening complications.

Lanre smiles in front of a treeHowever she nearly died after developing an antibody during a transfusion and her life was saved by Guy’s Hospital in London.

She was at greater risk of suffering the transfusion reaction because of the shortage of black people donating blood.

NHS Blood and Transplant and Guy’s and St Thomas’ are sharing Lanre’s story to demonstrate the urgent need for more people with black heritage to donate blood.

Sickle cell disease is more common in black people. It can cause loss of sight, organ failure and stroke, and the complications can be fatal. Many patients need blood transfusions and people from the same ethnic background are more likely to have matching blood.

Lanre can also no longer receive blood transfusions because the risk of another reaction is so high, which makes it harder to treat her complications from her sickle cell disease.

Lanre, aged 40, a radio producer, had a stroke from sickle cell complications in July 2018. She said: “I woke up and tried to get out of bed and my leg gave way and I just fell over.”

Further tests revealed that her sickle cell had caused several ‘silent strokes’ in her brain without Lanre knowing.

She was given a blood transfusion to help but days later became seriously ill, developed blood clots in her lungs, and spent several days in critical care at Guy’s Hospital in London.

Dr Jo Howard, consultant haematologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “There is a difference in red blood cell groups between the black and Caucasian population.

“If we give blood from Caucasians to black recipients, even though we match for the major blood groups, there is the possibility of minor blood groups causing a reaction to a blood transfusion.

“If we had more black donors, we could give better matched blood, and patients like Lanre would have a reduced risk of a serious reaction and more chance of being able to benefit from transfusions.

“Now, we would avoid giving blood to Lanre if at all possible as she would be at high risk of having another transfusion reaction.”

The number of black blood donors in England has gone up by 35% in three years but it’s still far below the level needed to meet the treatment needs of sickle cell disease patients. Currently 4.2% of our 84,249 Greater London donors are black, while the 2011 census shows 13.3% of the Greater London population is black.

Lanre is aware of the need for more black blood donors and said: “I think there needs to be more education in schools, and more face to face engagement, and the message needs to be simpler.

“There’s love there for one another in the black community. However there’s still some stigma around talking about anything medical not just blood donation. If people understand that blood donation saves lives, they will donate.”

NHS Blood and Transplant needs to recruit around 40,000 more black blood donors to help ensure patients such as Lanre are likely to receive the best matched blood possible.

Mike Stredder, Director Blood Donation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Lanre’s story dramatically shows the urgent need for more black blood donors.

“We have 23 permanent blood donor centres in major cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester, and they are a great place to make your first donation. Blood donation is quick, safe and easy – and you will save lives.”

Notes to editors

NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We provide the blood donation service for England and the organ donation service for the UK. We also provide donated tissues, stem cells and cord blood. We are an essential part of the NHS, saving and improving lives through public donation.

It is quick and easy to book an appointment to give blood. Call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.blood.co.uk

NHS Blood and Transplant needs to collect 1.4 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England.

There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. O negative (the universal blood group) and B negative are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls. So, we want people with those blood groups to donate as regularly as they can.

The overall demand for blood is falling by 3-4% per year due to improvements in clinical practice and our work with hospitals to ensure blood is used appropriately for patients.

We need 135,000 new blood donors each year to replace those who stop donating and to ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to match patient needs in the future

We urgently need more black donors as they are more likely to have the blood type needed to treat the increasing number of patients suffering from sickle cell disease.

There is an urgent need for donors with Ro blood. Only 2% of our donors have Ro type blood. Collecting enough is a constant challenge. Ro is often used to save people with the rare blood disorder, sickle cell disease. Ro blood is ten times more common in black people than in white people.

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Why we need 40,000 black donors

Media enquiries

For interviews with a Guy’s and St Thomas’ clinician call 020 7188 5577 or email press@gstt.nhs.uk.

For interviews with Lanre contact Stephen Bailey at NHS Blood and Transplant on 0151 268 7017 or stephen.bailey@nhsbt.nhs.uk

Press office on 01923 367 600 or pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk

For out of hours press enquiries please call NHSBT on 0117 969 2444