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Bonded by Blood

A group of mothers have come together to urge more Black people to give blood by sharing their stories of how donated blood saved their children’s lives.

Mums like BusolaOmiyale whose daughter Toriayooluwa (known as Tori)was diagnosed with sickle cell disease before birth and had her first sickle cell crisis – an episode of acute pain – at just nine months.

Busola said: “It was a huge shock when Tori had her first crisis, seeing my babyfloppy and unresponsive. However, she began to be more like herself almost as soon as she had treatment, and after a period in hospital, she was well again.”

Sickle cell is the fastest growing genetic disorder in the UK, affecting 15,000 people with around 300 babies born with the blood disorder each year.

An inherited blood disorder, sickle cell is more common in Black people. It can cause organ failure, stroke or loss of vision, and can be fatal.

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Tori is now 16 but still needs alternate red cell exchanges and blood transfusions every 4 weeks – thanks to blood donors who generously give blood to help people like her.

Busola said: “I am so grateful to the selfless people who give their blood and their time to help Tori and other children and adults with sickle cell to try and lead a normal life – I just wish more people would do the same.”

Donors from the Black and mixed Black communities are urgently needed as they are more likely to have Ro, the blood type needed to treat patients suffering from the complications of sickle cell disease.

Ro blood is ten times more common in Black people. Every month more than 1,300 new Black donors are needed to provide not only essential treatment for sickle cell but also life-saving blood for use in emergencies, childbirth, surgery, treatment of cancer and a range of medical conditions.

That’s why the Bonded by Blood: A Mother’s Storycampaign has been launched by a group of Black health organisationsAfrican Caribbean Leukemia Trust (ACLT), SickleKan and Unsickle My Cells and supported by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

NHS Blood and Transplant need 16,000 new donors from the Black and mixed Black communities this year as demand rises for life-saving transfusions.

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The campaign is in memory of 19-year-old sickle cell patient Richard Okorogheye, who died in April this year.

Richard Okorogheye was reported missing from his home in West London in April 2021. Sadly, two weeks later, Richard’s body was found 20 miles away in Epping Forest.

Richard had sickle cell disease and received regular blood transfusions.

The Bonded by Blood campaign aims to encourage more Black people to become donors at 10 special nationwide blood donation sessions in memory of Richard.

Bonded by Blood: A Mothers Story will share individual stories through a short film on how blood donation has positively impacted the lives of individuals who receive or have previously received blood transfusions, during childbirth, in medical emergencies or to treat illnesses such as sickle cell, blood cancer and a range of other medical conditions.

These stories are told by the mothers who have supported their children on their blood transfusion journey – highlighting the need for more blood donors from the Black community to step forward and donate during either World Sickle Cell Awareness month in September, or Black History Awareness Month in October.

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Evidence Joel, mother to Richard Okorogheye said: “Blood donation campaigns like Bonded by Blood are incredibly important to encourage existing blood donors to donate regularly and new blood donors to consider donating, particularly within the Black community – to help the lives of sickle cell patients and others who require blood transfusions and exchanges to maintain and save their life.

“I am grateful for the Bonded by Blood organisations coming together to do something positive in the name of my son Richard. He had a bright future ahead of him.

“It is my hope his legacy will be that of his name, encouraging people from the Black community to support each other by doing something so amazing such as giving blood.”

Beverley De-Gale OBE, ACLT Co-Founder and Director of Operations said: “The number of Black blood donors has increased in recent years but there is still a long way to go.

“By asking the Black community to step up and donate during World Sickle Cell Awareness Month or Black History Month, we hope it will contribute to the much-needed blood stocks now and in years to come.

“Additionally, the rare Ro Blood subtype is more commonly found in Black people and that’s why Black donors are so important to ensure that patients get this lifesaving treatment.”

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The special blood donation events will take place over three consecutive weekends between 25th September – 10th October, at venues across London, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester.

You can watch the video for Bonded by Blood: A Mother’s Story at aclt.org/bonded-by-blood

To register to donate blood and attend the Bonded by Blood donation sessions, please call the priority booking line on 0300 303 2805 or visit blood.co.uk.

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