To mark National Blood Week 2023, NHS Blood and Transplant has unveiled a striking new mural honouring inspirational members of the Black community from across England who donate their blood to help people living with sickle cell.
Created by Black-British street artist, Dreph, the mural comes as NHS Blood and Transplant announces that record numbers of people of Black heritage are now saving lives by giving blood. However, more are urgently needed to meet the growing demand for ethnically matched blood for sickle cell patients. Sickle cell is the fastest growing genetic blood disorder in the UK, and it disproportionately affects people of African or Caribbean heritage.
“Everyone in the Black community knows someone with sickle cell. It’s a very real and important issue that touches so many lives right here at home in the UK,” said Neequaye ‘Dreph’ Dsane. “I am grateful and humbled to have met these five incredible human beings who regularly give their blood to help patients with sickle cell, and I hope that this art will inspire more generous souls to come forward and save lives.”
The artwork is one part of NHS Blood and Transplant’s new ‘Giving Type’ campaign, which aims to empower communities to come together to change the narrative around sickle cell through the act of giving blood – which can save up to three lives with every donation. The ‘Giving Types’ depicted within the mural tell the stories of real people who are helping sickle cell patients from the Black community by regularly donating their blood.
“I know I have a rare blood type and I feel blessed to be able to make a real difference to my community so easily by giving blood,” said Samantha Awuku from London, whose image features within the mural. “My little sister has sickle cell and knowing that my blood will be used to help others like her gives me the drive to keep donating. It’s so much easier than people realise.”
More than half of Black heritage blood donors have the blood type needed by sickle cell patients compared with just 3% of the general population.
Naim Akhtar, Consultant Haematologist and Lead in Donor Medicine for NHS Blood and Transplant, said, “Many sickle cell patients need regular blood transfusions to prevent life-threatening complications, but currently we are only able to provide ethnically matched blood for around half of the hospital requests – leaving other sickle cell patients at risk of developing serious reactions to non-ethnically matched blood.
“While we are delighted to celebrate members of the Black community who regularly step forward to give lifesaving blood, demand is increasing rapidly and we urgently need more people of Black heritage to come forward.”
The ‘Giving Type’ mural will be on display to the public in Stockwell Hall of Fame, London, for the duration of National Blood Week, 12 – 18 June. Check out below for more photos of the mural.
NHS Blood and Transplant has 25 permanent donor centres in towns and cities. To find your nearest centre and become a blood donor, download the NHS Give Blood app or go to www.blood.co.uk. Blood donation is safe, easy and fast – donation takes around ten minutes and donors are usually in and out of the donation centre within the hour.
‘Giving Type’ case studies that are depicted in the mural are, Jaydan Manyan, 28, Birmingham; Torkwase Holmes, Bristol; Ronald Clarke, 63, Greater Manchester; Samantha Awuku, 32, London; and Lloyd Simmonds, 64, London.