How to feel special - give blood
It's not every morning you open a letter you that starts with these words: "This is a special message to a special person". But that's what happened to me today. It was not a rare item of fan-mail but a note of thanks from NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) sent to recent O negative donors. People who are O negative are so-called universal donors, because anyone can receive their blood.
Just before Christmas NHSBT issued an urgent appeal for O neg donors. The appalling weather had meant many people had been unable to keep appointments and some donor sessions had to be cancelled. Stocks were running low.
I did a story about the appeal which ran on the Six O'Clock News and also online on Monday 20th December which included footage of me giving blood - the things I do to get myself on TV! NHSBT said donors "responded amazingly".
Jon Latham, Assistant Director of Blood Donation told me: "In the days after your broadcast we had record numbers of O negative donors turning up at our sessions across the country. We would like to thank everyone who gave blood when the weather was bad. We rely on the generosity and commitment of all our volunteer donors to help us maintain the vital supply of blood to hospitals."
On Wednesday 21st December, 1,119 units of O-negative blood were collected, the highest number in a single day since 2000.
Stocks of blood are now back up to healthy levels, but there is a constant need for donors of all blood groups as maintaining healthy stocks is essential for people in hospital and requiring treatment. The NHS needs 7,000 voluntary donations of blood daily across England and North Wales alone.
Blood donors can donate every 16 weeks - that's three times a year. First time donors should be aged between 17-65, weighing at least 50 kg (7 stone 12lbs) and in general good health. If you've donated before, you can start again up to your 70th birthday and there is no upper age limit for donors who have donated in the last two years. To book an appointment call the Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.blood.co.uk
So pat yourselves on the back if you gave blood. And if you want to to feel special, why not sign up to be a blood donor? 96% of the population rely on the 4% who donate. You don't get paid, but you do get a nice cup of tea, some biscuits, and the knowledge that every donation can save three lives.