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The right type

Sickle cell patients like Miai rely on carefully matched blood transfusions to treat their illness, but there’s a shortage of suitable donors.

Miai and her puppetMiai is one of 15,000 people in the UK with sickle cell disease and she relies on blood transfusions as part of her treatment. Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition most commonly found in those with African or Caribbean heritage.

It leads to abnormally shaped red cells. These can block blood vessels, causing what is called a sickle cell crisis.

Miai’s mum, Lisa, says, "When Miai has a crisis, it usually starts with pain in her joints and increasingly in her chest.

"The pain is unbearable and can be very hard to manage as it's often felt deep into the bone. It can last days or weeks.

"It is very important we encourage our communities to regularly donate to ensure there is enough to meet demand and help individuals like Miai.

"If you are thinking about giving blood for the first time or you are a regular donor, please be reassured that each bag of blood is like a little bag of hope. It’s an invaluable lifeline."

Why matched blood matters

Ro is a blood subtype found most often in people of African or Caribbean descent, so it is also more common in people with sickle cell disease. This matters because close matching of blood types is important for patients receiving regular transfusions.

The demand for Ro is on the rise but only around 2 per cent of donors have this rare subtype, so meeting the demand can be difficult. We need more donors like Darren Williams, who started giving blood five years ago.

He says, “I never took much notice of my blood group and didn’t really know what I was until I received a letter thanking me for giving blood. After more research on my group I realised how important it was for me to give whenever I could. I have two daughters and I will be encouraging them to give blood as soon as they can.”

If you have the Ro subtype, you are one of very few donors. Please give blood as regularly as you can. There is also an increased likelihood that members of your immediate family have this rare subtype too. Please encourage them to give blood.

The Ro subtype is more than 10 times as common in individuals from black African or black Caribbean ethnic backgrounds than in individuals from white ethnic backgrounds.

This is why we are asking for more black and mixed race people to join the growing numbers donating blood.

If you're a Ro donor and you would like to share your story, send us an email at thedonor@nhsbt.nhs.uk