This Black History Month NHS Blood and Transplant is urging black people in Birmingham to join the rising numbers saving lives in their community by registering as blood and organ donors.
More people from black backgrounds are now giving blood and donating their organs after they have died. But there is still an urgent shortage of donors to help black patients who need lifesaving or life enhancing blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Almost 1,400 people from black backgrounds in Birmingham signed up to give blood in 2017 - more than double that of 2013. So far this year almost 1,000 new black blood donors have registered in the city. Across England there are now more than 17,000 active blood donors from black backgrounds compared with fewer than 13,000 five years ago.
But NHS Blood and Transplant urgently needs 40,000 more blood donors from black African, black Caribbean and mixed heritage backgrounds, as they are more likely to have the Ro blood type which can help people with sickle cell.
The number of black people donating their organs after they have died and those donating a kidney during their lifetime remains low and more black organ donors are urgently needed. Last year 25 people from black backgrounds donated organs after they died. While this is an increase compared with 17 five years earlier, black families are still less likely to go ahead with organ donation than white families.
The severe shortage of organ donors from black backgrounds means that black people wait on average more than six months longer for a kidney transplant than people from white backgrounds. Sheron Williamson, 50, from Solihull, needed a transplant due to viral Myocarditis. She said:
“My life was turned upside down in 2011 when I was told I needed a heart transplant. I had spent months in the Queen Elizabeth hospital but prior to that I was fit and healthy, running 30 miles a week.
“Without the transplant I was told I would have about 12 days to live. As a mother to a 14-year-old daughter I was distraught, but four days later I was given the gift of a new heart. Without this I would not have been able to see my daughter grow up.
“I don’t think people in our community talk enough about organ donation and that needs to change. This October we celebrate our black heroes of history, but donors are heroes too.”
During Black History Month NHS Blood and Transplant is holding a number of events across the country to raise awareness and boost donor numbers. The activity is part of a Government campaign being led by NHS Blood and Transplant to break down barriers to donation that exist within black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. Sally Johnson, Interim Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said:
“Donors save and improve lives. More than 2,300 people from the black community are alive today thanks to an organ transplant. Many of the 15,000 people living with sickle cell disease in the UK depend on frequent blood transfusions to lead normal lives. We need 10 blood donors to make each transfusion possible.
“We are incredibly grateful to every person who gives blood and joins the NHS Organ Donor Register, and to those inspirational families who say yes to organ donation after a loved one has died.
“Please, make Black History Month the time you take action to save lives in your community. Sign up as a blood donor and join the NHS Organ Donor Register, and talk to your family and friends about your decision.”
There is a dedicated blood donor centre at Birmingham Donor Centre based on New Street in Birmingham, which is open Monday to Friday and alternate Saturdays.