New blood donors campaign - We need you

People in Norfolk are being urged to help save a life this winter and sign up to become a blood donor.

The Evening News is today launching the New Blood Campaign, in association with NHS Blood and Transplant which manages voluntary donations nationally, to recruit 750 new donors during December.

There is a continuing need for blood donation as around 7,000 units of blood are used every day in the UK and blood banks currently have around eight days' worth of stock.

Blood stocks fall around bank holidays and busy periods when people are preoccupied and forget to book an appointment to donate.

Hundreds of units are needed every day to help save lives in our region.

Nigel Pickover, editor-in-chief of the Norwich Evening News and Eastern Daily Press, said: 'We are delighted to get behind such a worthwhile appeal. There really is no greater gift than the gift of life and by getting behind this campaign and donating blood that is exactly what people can do. We know people in Norfolk have a long history of being generous and getting behind worthy campaigns and we hope the same will happen in this instance.'

Derek Carr, NHS Blood and Transplant's donor relations manager, is calling on people to pledge to become a donor.

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He said: 'Over the past 10 years we have seen a 20pc drop in young donors. As we move to the future we need new donors to come forward to replace those who can no longer donate.' He said the trust had carried out research to find out what had caused the drop in young donors.

'It's down to three main reasons. The first is a fear that it's going to hurt. People don't know what to expect. Anxiety is a normal feeling but as a donor I know it's nothing worse than a sharp scratch. It's a rewarding experience.

'The second reason is time. People think it's going to take hours and hours. With new donors the entire session, providing they have booked an appointment, will last an hour from the moment they walk through the door until they leave. The part where you give blood takes around seven minutes.'

He said the third was that people did not know where to go to give blood. The National Blood Service holds between 10 and 15 sessions every week across Norfolk in places including Norwich, Long Stratton, Gorleston and Hoveton.

'Some people think you can only give blood somewhere with a medical connection like a hospital but we hold sessions at Norwich City Football Club, church halls and in hotels,' Mr Carr said.

'It's a totally voluntary thing to do. It's altruistic.'

People are encouraged to sign up and book an appointment before attending a session. They can be booked online or over the phone at a range of locations across the county. Red blood cells have a shelf life of 35 days. Platelets, which are used for patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or leukaemia, people who need transplants, and people with life-threatening bleeding due to trauma or surgery, have to be used within seven days.

Katie Corbould, whose son Mark Sweeney needed a blood transfusion when he was a baby, is one of those backing the campaign.

Mark is like any other nine-year-old boy. He enjoys playing football and basketball and being with his friends. But he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer which affects children, when he was just six weeks old. He underwent an operation to remove a kidney and in the process, needed a blood and platelet transfusion.

Miss Corbould, 28, who lives in Rightup Lane, Wymondham, with her partner Callum McNeill, 41, was just 18 years old when Mark was diagnosed.

'They found a lump the size of an orange on his left kidney,' she said. 'He had to have six doses of chemotherapy and due to that he had to have a blood transfusion. I was worried about him dying.'

Mark, who attends Robert Kett School in Wymondham, spent a month in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and was also treated in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, where he underwent a major operation which included two units of blood and one unit of platelets being transfused into his body. Now Miss Courbould is encouraging other people to roll up their sleeve and help to save a life.

She said: 'I would urge everybody to give blood. Thirty or 40 years ago he wouldn't have survived the cancer and blood donors helped to save his life.'