"You will never know how much I treasure you, blood donors"

Solome Mealin, 41, has sickle cell disorder and receives red cell exchanges every five weeks at St James’ hospital in Leeds. The mum of three has eight units of Ro blood each time.

The sickle-shaped red blood cells that her body produces are replaced with donated healthy red cells. The disease, which is inherited, makes Solome feel tired and she suffers regular headaches, nosebleeds and pains (called a crisis).

Solome receiving exchange transfusion"It’s a very painful disease. I have had so many bad crisis episodes with sickle cell,” says Solome, who is originally from Uganda.

"It damages your bones and I needed a hip replacement because of sickle cell disease."

(Picture: Solome needs exchange transfusions every five weeks)

By the time her regular transfusion is approaching, Solome starts to get severe chest and back pain. She says, "I think blood donors are fantastic. I wish could do it. I get eight units every five weeks which is a lot and I know I am not alone. People who donate are doing a great service."

In 2019, Solome met 26-year-old Zamzam Aba-Nur, one of the blood donors who has helped save her life. They both have the rare Ro subtype, which is often needed in transfusions for people with sickle cell.

As Zamzam walked onto the ward, the pair shared an emotional hug and started chatting. Solome explained how her mum died from sickle cell disease and that transfusions are giving her precious time with her own children.

She told Zamzam, "Your blood is coursing through my veins. Because of you and blood donation I can have time with my children. I never had a chance to be with my mum. Because of blood donors, I am here watching them grow up. I cannot thank you enough."

Solome adds, "Donors have given me a chance to hear my kids call me mummy, I am a wife and I am educated. Without blood exchanges, this would not have been possible. How will I ever thank blood donors for the chance and a gift of life that they have given me?!"

The unsung heroes, by Solome, dedicated to hidden friends I have never met – blood donors

Most heroes we hear of or see, are those in uniform. Those who save our lives, when we’re at our lowest. These heroes come in different uniforms, different professionals, and hey; they are special people.

But there are heroes out there and they don’t even know they are heroes. They don’t know how much they stand up for people like me.

These heroes need to be told how important they are, and without them, people like me would not be alive or would be near to death. These heroes are blood donors.

You have all gone that extra mile to help those of us who need blood. You have all saved a life and you don’t even know it.

You have all given hope to families of the ill who are helpless, in hospital beds and homes. You are my God-sent angels.

Solome with her three children and her husbandYou give in that precious time where you would or could have fun, but choose to go to a blood donation centre, so you could save a life.

You don’t get paid for this, but you do it willingly, to save those you have never met before. You have never asked for anything in return. You are my heroes.

(Picture: Solome with her husband and children)

You brighten up the dark days when I lie in hospital with excruciating pain, with low blood count. I smile when I feel better after a blood transfusion or exchange. Knowing that somebody, who does not know me, donated their blood and it is running through my veins to make me feel better, is breath-taking. I can never thank you enough and you are the hidden ray of sunshine.

Your blood has saved babies, the injured soldiers, the sick, the poor, the rich, the elderly, the young, the doctors, mothers in labour, and many other patients, especially sickle cell patients who depend on this blood to reduce painful crises and the damage from the sickle cell disease. It is a miracle that your blood helps everyone. You have given me and other people a chance to be me, a mother, a wife, a friend, a student and you have kept me alive. You will never know how much I treasure you, blood donors. You are the kindest people I know.

I don’t have the best way to thank you enough, for all the times you have donated your blood to help those in need, like me. Today, I sincerely want to thank all blood donors for this gift of life that you have given to me and all other patients out there. You are the hidden friends I have never met.

Many people with sickle cell disorder have the Ro subtype. This is because sickle cell more commonly affects people from black ethnic backgrounds where the Ro subtype is more common.

Many sickle cell patients require ongoing blood transfusions, sometimes for the rest of their lives. If a patient with sickle cell disorder is Ro, ideally, they should receive blood of the same subtype. There has been an increase in the number of people with sickle cell and as a result, the demand for Ro blood has grown.