Patients from across London have filmed emotional messages to encourage people of black heritage to step forward and become regular blood donors.
The #DearSickleCell messages aim to help others understand the daily battle and pain that sickle cell patients and their families go through by addressing the illness as if it were a person.
“We urgently need more black donors to provide life-saving blood transfusions to sickle cell patients,” said a spokesperson for the NHS Blood and Transplant Service. “Ethnically matched blood provides the best treatment for this.”
Tasmin McCaskie, aged 30, from Croydon, is supporting the campaign by sharing her and her son Cameron’s sickle cell story in an emotional film that will be shared across NHS Blood and Transplant’s social media channels this week.
“When the doctors told me my son would have sickle cell disease, I was confused more than anything,” McCaskie said.
“If they had told me to expect Cameron to have one of the more spoken about diseases, like Down Syndrome, then you have some understanding of what to expect.
“But nobody told me that my son would be in constant pain and cry out in agony, or have issues with his lungs, or sometimes need to wheelchair to get around.”
Now 10 years old, Cameron is seeing more complications with his sickle cell as he is getting older. “He’s his own worst enemy most of the time,” his mother said.
“He’s a young boy, and he wants to do what young boys do – play! He does overdo it sometimes, and that’s when he goes into crisis.”
Cameron needed his red cell exchange at the age of six after suffering a crisis.
“It was a really worrying time. Cameron was sedated for weeks when the doctors agreed that an exchange transfusion would be the best thing for him, and thankfully it worked.”
Cameron continues to receive regular top up blood transfusions every three to four months when his haemoglobin levels drop.
“I’m so grateful to courageous people who regularly give up their precious time to donate blood,” McCaskie said. “They don’t know that on the receiving end is a little boy like my son, who gets to live because of their generosity.”
People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have the same blood type. However the shortage of black blood donors makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black patients.
The red blood cells of sickle cell patients form into a sickle or crescent moon shape. These deformed cells can block blood vessels, causing agonising pain and creating a risk of organ damage, stroke and death.
Nadine Eaton, Head of Blood Donation Campaigns for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “We urgently need more black donors to help treat sickle cell patients like Cameron.
“The shortage of black donors makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black people, putting them at greater risk of potentially life-threatening transfusion reactions.
“Blood donation is quick, easy and safe and we urge people of black heritage to register as donors to help save lives.”
The #DearSickleCell campaign is running throughout October.
To become a blood donor, register and book and appointment by calling 0300 123 23 23, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app, or visiting blood.co.uk
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