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BLOOD PRESSURE: Donors are encouraged to give blood during the summer when the stocks are expected to fall

Sporting summer will hit blood supply

By Staff Reporter

THE upcoming summer of big sporting fixtures could have a detrimental impact on blood stocks for seriously ill people, says the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS).Service spokesperson Paul McElkerney was speaking as West Belfast gears up for a packed summer of top sport, including the Championship, Euro 2012 and the Olympic Games.

“At the present time our stocks are actually under a bit of pressure caused by the good weather as people are out rightly enjoying themselves,” said Paul.

“However, all it takes is a very small drop at a blood donation session for it to have a bad effect on the actual stocks. We’re going to have a real problem over the summer as we will be directly in competition with these sporting events for people’s time.”

Paul explained that, despite having a shelf life of 35 days, donated blood is usually gone within four to five days.

“At the present time on some of our stocks we are down to two days’ worth,” he said.

“For example, if you were an ‘O Negative’ blood type we would have great problems keeping your blood in stock as it’s the universal blood type used in cases of emergencies.

“If you were rushed into hospital and they did not know your blood type they would give you a couple of units of O Negative to keep you alive while they get you a match. But that means it’s always under pressure, particularly when you’ve had a downturn in sessions as we have had over the past few weeks.”

And accidents and emergencies are not the only medical contingencies that make demands on the donated blood supply.

“40 per cent of what we collect goes to cancer patients,” continued Paul.

“500 patients in Northern Ireland receive blood each and every week of the year, come rain, hail or shine. Every year 1,000 women here will need blood during childbirth and children with leukaemia also require blood. There are also people who receive blood not to save their lives but to enhance their lives, people who have to get a transfusion every month to stay alive as they have some form of anaemia.”

Paul said donations of blood platelets, which help  blood to clot, are also vitally important.

“We can take platelets directly from your blood here in NIBTS headquarters at the Belfast City Hospital site,” he said.

“Donating the platelets directly here will give the same amount of platelets as we would get out of six units of whole blood from an outside donation session, so it really is worthwhile to come to our headquarters and donate platelets directly. It’s also safer for the patient to receive platelets from one person than from six different people.”

Any reasonably healthy person between the age of 17 and 65 is able to give blood.

“We have 1,000 sessions a year at 240 different locations across Northern Ireland,” said Paul.

“The biggest problem we have is apathy. People will read this article and say to themselves, ‘I must get around to giving blood some time.’

“But now is the time when the thought is in your head.  Pick up the phone, text, or go online and arrange to give blood now.”

If you would like to give blood, text the word ‘BLOOD’ to 60081, call NITBS on 0500 534666, or go online at www.nibts.org

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