Plea from firework injury boy 50 years on

Britain's only one-handed potter, Wigan-born Dick Unsworth, these days based at Ingleton Pottery in North Yorkshire
Britain's only one-handed potter, Wigan-born Dick Unsworth, these days based at Ingleton Pottery in North Yorkshire

HE has defied the odds to forge a career as Britain’s only one-armed potter.

And Wigan-born Dick Unsworth was this week once again repaying his debt of gratitude to those who gave him the chance of life, let alone a job, by supporting a regional appeal for blood donors,

As a boy in Whelley 50 years ago, Dick blew his right hand off in an accident with a home-made firework. Despite the horrific injury, it could have been a whole lot worse had he not been given five pints of blood as he lay semi-conscious in Wigan Infirmary.

And all these years later he remains one of the donor service’s biggest supporters, having given more than 70 pints himself.

During mid-June almost 10,500 people in the North West made a date to donate and more than 2,300 registered to donate for the first time, but the service has experienced a 20 per cent fall in regular donors in the last decade.

And father-of-one Dick, who now lives in the North Yorkshire town of Ingleton, said: “If I had not had that donation when I needed it most as a 13-year-old boy I would not be here today and have a wife, son and career.

“Giving blood is very easy and the service needs more donors to help save lives.”

Reflecting on his own hour of need, the 63-year-old said: “I was given the last rites by a Catholic priest at the hospital who had popped out of nowhere. I had been messing about with a firework - more of a small bomb really - when it went off and caused a right old mess.

“A towel was wrapped round my shattered hand and a taxi was flagged down to take me to hospital. I was losing a lot of blood and while the doctors tried to repair the damage it eventually began to get gangrene and so they had to amputate it. They did leave me with a bit of wrist though!

“I am very grateful for what was done then and that someone had thought to donate blood. The least I can do to pay back is do the same.”

Despite a significant increase in the number of new registrations among young people in the North West, among existing donors, 40 to 54-year-olds are still responsible for giving the most blood.

From June 13 to 26, 3,978 existing donors of that age group made appointments to donate, compared to 2,058 from the 17 to 29 age bracket.

Barbara Blanche, the region’s NHS Blood and Transplant Lead Donor Relation Manager, said: “We would like to thank all of the first time and regular donors in the North West who made a ‘date to donate’. However, to maintain national blood stocks, we need over 177,000 donations and 24,000 new donors every year.”

For more information on how to donate visit www.blood.co.uk, or call 0300 123 2323. Follow NHSBT at http://www.facebook.com/NHSBlood or www.twitter.com/NHSGiveBlood