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John's 20 in 21 platelet challenge

How one platelet donor is doing his best to finish an important challenge

Donating platelets 20 times at 20 different donor centres in 2020 may have had a nicer ring to it, but John Tett is still determined not to let Coronavirus get in the way of completing his life-saving challenge in 2021.

Platelet donor John took on the '20 in 20' challenge in a bid to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital and to enhance awareness of the need for A negative and AB negative platelet donors in particular.

He was stopped in his tracks a quarter of the way through in March, when NHS Blood and Transplant applied a temporary deferral for donors aged 70 and above, in line with Government guidance on social distancing at the time.

Lockdown setback

“Obviously, I was very disappointed that we had to go into lockdown and that I was unable to donate, but fully appreciated why we had to do it,” John said.

“During the lockdown, I was keen to get back to donating as soon as possible to try and do the challenge in 2020. However, the fact I was not able to donate for nearly four months meant this would not be possible.”

The restrictions were lifted in time for John, from Brewood in Staffordshire, to resume donating in late June, and he has since ticked off Luton, Manchester Plymouth Grove, the London West End and Liverpool donor centres.

Although the situation is fluid and NHS Blood and Transplant are keeping their policies and guidance under constant review, John still hopes to have visited 20 donor centres by April 2021.

He said, “Rather than stop donating, I decided to continue and make the most of this situation, I now hope to visit 20 donor centres in England by April 2021 or before, which would be the equivalent of a year to do the challenge in.”

Platelet donor John Tett with Matt Jones and Penny Crook-Jones of NHS Blood and Transplant
John at Bristol Donor Centre with NHS Blood and Transplant's Matt Jones and Penny Crook-Jones

Safety precautions

There are now extra safety measures on session, including triage on arrival, social distancing, extra cleaning, and the use of face masks.

No problem, according to John. “The only real changes are a few medical questions relating to coronavirus on arrival and you have to wear a mask.”

A and AB negative donors needed

Over 60 per cent of platelet donations are used to help someone with cancer and each donation can save and improve the lives of up to 12 children or three adults.

There is a particular need for platelet donors who are A negative or AB negative, because these platelet types can safely be given to any patient, whatever their blood type, and are always in high demand. But these donors are rare: only 8 per cent of donors are A negative and 1 per cent are AB negative.

John initially became a blood donor in 1973 and started donating in Edgware – he later became a platelet donor in 1982.

John said, “My doctor suggested I go to donate platelets when there was a cricket match on television and that we’d watch it together while I donated. I did just that and the staff treated me so well – I haven’t looked back since!”

Penny Crook-Jones, an area matron at NHS Blood and Transplant said, “John’s commitment to continuing this challenge despite his setbacks is admirable. It’s not every day we see donors travelling the lengths of the country to support us like this – and in doing so John is also helping to raise awareness about the lesser known need for platelet donors.

“We are grateful to John for his passion and commitment to going the extra mile for our service this year.

“John has over a thousand donation credits so far, so the number of people that he has helped with those donations is insurmountable. If you are an existing platelet donor – particularly A negative and AB negative – or would like to try it, please donate. We particularly need more of these donors right now.”

John said, “I get a real buzz from being a donor and I’ve already signed three people up as donors!”

2020 has undone many a plan, but with John now over the halfway line, who could bet against him to complete his impressive challenge – and save countless lives in the process – in 2021?

If you are interested in platelet donation visit platelets.blood.co.uk to find out more.