Humans of Blood Donation - Karen Piotr

Karen always gave blood with her husband, Mark, who shared her passion for helping others.

Karen wearing a white T shirt which says Thank you on it with a rainbowI started donating with my husband, Mark. We met at Leeds College on the same business course in 1986 and we got married in 1993.  

Mark and I used to donate together, sat side by side in the chairs at our local donation centre. Every time, on the way home, we had our usual post-donation conversations and he would always say, “They’ve had a pint of my Yorkshire finest, if anything ever happened, they could have everything.”  

I gave my 31st donation in July and I donate about three times a year, so I’ve been donating for about 12 years! I always feel euphoric after donating, knowing that my blood could help up to three people.  

(Picture: Karen has achieved 31 credits so far)

I first suggested we should start donating because Mark had the A negative blood type and I'd read somewhere about the need for keeping blood stock levels high and the A negative was mentioned in the article. I said to him that we should go and help others.  

I felt it was a very worthwhile thing to do: for just an hour of your time three times a year you give a pint of blood which benefits other people. It’s a very selfless and noble thing to do. We were guide dog volunteers so we were already helping partially sighted people by raising money to fund guide dog puppies; donating blood was another positive thing we could easily do together.  

I find it incredible that I can help people who need to receive blood regularly.

My blood is A positive and I have the Ro subtype. When I found out I had the Ro subtype I thought that can't be right as I’m a white British woman and I understand Ro is more common in black African and black Caribbean ethnic backgrounds. I was told that, overall, only three per cent of donors have Ro blood and I thought wow, that’s me! It makes me feel extra proud knowing my blood can help a people who have sickle cell. I find it incredible that I can help people who need to receive blood regularly.  

When I give blood I get a donor carer to take a picture of me with the Ro tag on the blood bag. I like to share the photo on social media. It’s absolutely amazing and special that I've got this Ro blood and I can help all of those people.  

Karen holding blood bag with Ro label
Karen holding her blood bag after donating

The really sad part is that Mark was taken ill in May 2017. He suffered a spontaneous brain bleed and sadly he passed away. He was a caring compassionate man, always helping others. His generosity and kindness knew no limits. He would go out of his way to do things for others. 

I never expected to have to rely on and recall those conversations we had after giving blood. But when we were in the neurological intensive care unit at Leeds General Infirmary, I knew what he wanted so it was an easy decision for me to make in terms of honouring his wishes and donating his organs. He's gone on to help save or improve the lives of eight other people who received his organs.  

Karen's tattoo of Mark's nameI always feel extremely proud that he helped people by donating his blood and then his organs.  

I would absolutely encourage others to donate blood. It’s a very simple, selfless thing to do in under an hour. Helping others is generous and special; you occasionally get a bruise but no other lasting effects. It’s nothing compared to those that need constant blood transfusions and hospital visits.  

(Picture: Karen's tattoo of Mark's name)

As well as continuing to give blood, I am now an NHS Blood and Transplant volunteer ambassador, raising awareness of organ donation. The ambassador role is about going into community groups and talking to people about how important it is to have those conversations with your loved ones, to leave them certain about what your decision regarding organ donation would be. We think we know everything about their loved ones, but would we know what their wishes would be? I try to help alleviate the burden on them through my experience. I talk to them about my story of knowing what Mark’s wishes were and how it made it an easy decision to honour his wishes.