YOU might expect the Oxford Donor Centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital to resemble a sedate doctors’ waiting room, quiet with perhaps a few National Geographic magazines for company.
Yet as soon as you walk in you see a row of people hooked up to machines, the whirring hum filling the room and staff milling about to tender to the 150 weekly sessions that keep blood stocks at a healthy level.
It is run by NHS Blood and Transplant, the national body tasked with running the national blood service, first set up in 1946 to provide the required eight blood types for everything from long-term treatment to emergencies.
Oxford centre manager Gayle Franklin
The Oxford centre has free parking and eight beds for donation, overseen by the centre’s 18 staff, including centre manager Gayle Franklin.
She said: “They really enjoy the experience, we have a really good response. There is a great team spirit, it is like a club.”
It has more than 1,000 donors on its books, with more than 21,000 registered throughout Oxfordshire.
Among the donors when the Oxford Mail visited was Eynsham’s Bob Buckley, 60, who was moved to give blood for the first time after wife of 25 years Carol, 55, went into the JR this month and has had three operations for a twisted bowel.
The St John’s College lodge porter, who visited with daughter Sasha, 24, said: “While we were visiting I saw the poster saying only four per cent of the population donate.
“When you have somebody in intensive care you realise how reliant you are on those four per cent.”
The father-of-three – who revealed his wife is in a critical condition in intensive care – said: “My daughter has always been a donor and I decided I would like to do the same. I often thought about it before, but you never get round to it. It is lovely, I was quite proud, to be honest. The people are beautiful and make things so easy. I will donate as often as I can.”
The authority’s head of region for the west, Matthew Jones, said the service has enough to meet demand as advances in science, such as keyhole surgery, mean less blood is needed.
Yet he said 200,000 new donors are needed each year to ensure a strong turnover of donors in England, which number 1.7m.
He said: “Demand from hospitals is on the decrease. This is a massively positive message that we are working with hospitals to use blood as appropriately as possible.”
The service needs to find people of the O RhD negative blood group, a “universal” type that can be given to anyone, one of eight types found in 15 per cent of the population.
Red cells have a shelf life of 35 days and platelets – parts of the blood that help the blood clot – up to seven days.
Mr Jones said: “There is a fine balance, to collect enough blood to fulfil hospital requirements, but not over-collect, otherwise blood would be wasted.”
The service is keen to recruit young donors as just four per cent of county donors are 17 to 19.
It has in recent years adopted new technology like online booking and through smartphone apps to encourage more young donors, while companies are encouraged to give employees time off to donate or even host sessions.
Feeling a need to provide
AS a John Radcliffe Hospital doctor, Laura Brain has plenty of reasons to regularly donate blood, but as an O RhD negative blood type she has an extra reason to give up her time.
The rare blood type can be used in any transfusion and the consultant geriatrician, 38, has been donating since a medical student at University College London, aged 20.
Dr Laura Brain with her two-year-old son Hugo
The Headington resident – mum to Hugo, two and Alexander, five – said her blood type “made me feel I should give as regularly as I can”.
She said: “I will prescribe blood products for patients. It can be life saving and life sustaining.
“I know that it is greatly needed and I feel that I should. It is something I can do and it doesn’t take long.”
‘Because I can give, I’m happy to’
A FOOTBALL injury in 1978 means Maurice Earp, 60, can give platelets every two weeks.
His spleen was removed after the injury at a match in Kingston Bagpuize and this means his platelets are replaced more quickly.
The Sandford-on-Thames father-of-three has now been donating for the last 24 years at the John Radcliffe Hospital, including giving a total 10 to 15 pints of whole blood for the last seven years.
Maurice Earp with his award
He said of the accident: “They said they had noticed my platelet count was high and I was asked whether I would like to give platelets on a regular basis.”
Former employers, city bookseller Blackwell’s, gave him time off and he said: “To be honest it was to get out of work for a while. For me it was easy to do and the thought that I was helping other people was a bonus. I was happy to do it.”
Mr Earp’s achievements were recognised by NHS Blood and Transplant with an award last year for 809 donations.
The steward at Littlemore Rugby Club, who is married to Rosemary, 57, said: “If I had my way I would make people give blood. Because I can, I do.”
‘You never know what life throws at you’
DONOR of 13 years Nina Lawson said a blood transfusion that helped save her new-born son’s life reaffirmed her belief in giving blood.
The Didcot 30-year-old’s son Jon-Paul was born in 2009 with Down’s syndrome and needed an operation in Southampton in July 2010 to close a hole in his heart aged just eight months.
Nina Lawson and son Jon-Paul
The mum-of-three, a donor since she was 17, said: “He had a massive hole in his heart and he wouldn’t have made his first birthday if he didn’t have the surgery.”
Mrs Lawson, who offered her own blood for her son, now four, said: “It was awful.
“It was definitely the worst time of my life.”
Mrs Lawson, married to car mechanic Andrew, 33, gives three times a year at Didcot Civil Hall.
She said: “It just reaffirms what I already thought.
“You never know what life will throw at you. It made me feel good that I had given blood for so many years.”
People are advised to have regular meals, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and to avoid vigorous exercise prior to donating.
On arrival, they are given a welcome leaflet and about half a litre of water to drink prior to donation.
They then have a private consultation with a donor carer to confirm their identity and answer questions about their health.
Those who cannot give include people with a chesty cough, sore throat or active cold sore; those who have had hepatitis or jaundice in the last 12 months or cosmetic treatments like tattoos in the last four months.
A pin prick test is then taken to check they have enough haemoglobin in the blood and the blood will then be taken in a chair or bed.
A blood pressure cuff is placed on the arm and a suitable place cleaned before the needle is inserted to take 470ml, which usually takes five to ten minutes.
When completed, a sterile dressing is applied to the arm and they are offered drinks and snacks and asked to relax at the centre for at least 15 minutes.
SESSIONS COMING UP
All sessions from 1.30pm to 3.30pm and 4.15pm to 7.30pm. For more sessions visit blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.
- July 9: West Oxford Community Centre, Botley Road, Oxford
- July 1, July 22: Oxford Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre, Little Gate Street,
- St Ebbes, Oxford
- July 14: Cheney School, Cheney Lane, Headington
- July 11: Exeter Hall, Oxford Road, Kidlington
- June 25: St James Church Centre, Beauchamp Lane, Cowley, Oxford
- July 7: Abingdon United FC, Northcourt Road
- Donors can drop-in to sessions or book in advance at blood.co.uk/index.aspx or call 0300 123 23 23.