Amazing blood donor encourages men to sign up

Men are being urged to give blood
Men are being urged to give blood

A 63-year-old who has given blood 75 times since the turn of the century has called on young men to follow his lead amid fears about a gender imbalance among new donors.

Bob Downes described donating his O-negative blood - which can be used in newborn babies - as a “duty”.

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NHS statistics indicate that for every 100 women who started giving blood in 2019, only 70 men did the same - a concern given that certain transfusions and products require male blood.

Yesterday, Mr Downes, a retired geography teacher from Elloughton near Hull, made his 75th donation in the space of 20 years - making him the neonatal-eligible donor who has given the most times to NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) since the start of the year 2000.

It is believed his donations may have helped hundreds of babies.

The father-of-two told the PA news agency: “Once you get it into your head that this is an important thing to do and that you’re making a contribution to others without it being a great sacrifice - I don’t see it as a sacrifice at all - you just want to keep going.

“I’m not going to be giving forever, and there are a lot of older people getting to the end of their donation period. We need new people coming in all the time.

“It’s painless, it’s certainly got a feelgood factor to it, and from the moment you walk through the door of any session you’re made to feel very welcome. Starting to donate blood when you are young could be your first opportunity to give something back to society.”

Mr Downes first gave blood in 1997 after his mother-in-law, Ena Thompson, needed transfusions during leukaemia treatment.

“I thought ‘this is ridiculous’, my mother-in-law was receiving all this blood and I’d never done anything to contribute back,” he said.

The concern about a gender imbalance in new donors comes as NHS statistics indicate only 41% of new donors last year were men. As a result, the NHSBT has increased its target for new, first-time male donors by 26% this year to 68,260.

Male blood is valuable because it has higher iron levels, meaning men are less likely to be deferred as a result of low haemoglobin.

NHSBT said donations from women can be complicated as during pregnancies - including short ones that women are not aware of - the body can produce antibodies which make transfusions more difficult.

Only men’s blood can be used for complete blood transfusions on newborn babies and for fresh frozen plasma, which is used for trauma patients with massive blood loss and for some rare diseases.