A Lanarkshire teenager with ambitions to study medicine has successfully completed a pioneering program aimed at improving young people’s understanding and awareness of blood donation.
Mairi McLeod, 17, was one of 15 Glasgow Academy students who took part in the pioneering initiative organized by charity Give Blood 4 Good.
And now she hopes schools in Lanarkshire will be among those rolling out the scheme over the next school years.
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By eliminating the fear of the unknown that can sometimes surround donating blood, while creating a culture that empowers blood donors to donate regularly, Give Blood 4 Good hopes that blood donation will become a part of people’s lives from the youngest age.
The Give Blood 4 Good Young Ambassador program used online learning resources to teach Mairi and her fellow students a range of blood donation topics, from learning compatible blood types to the many reasons why a person might need a blood transfusion.
Mairi and the other Youth Ambassadors then developed their own resources that allowed them to share information about blood donation with their peers.
“It was a chance to get involved with a charity that makes a real difference to people’s lives,” S5 pupil Mairi, from Cumbernauld, told Lanarkshire Live.
“I really tried to participate as much as possible and gave a Powerpoint presentation at the assembly to show that donating blood and having a needle stuck in your arm is not as terrifying as people might think so.”
Although height and weight restrictions mean Mairi is not currently eligible to donate blood, she has created an account to ensure she can donate in the future.
Since his participation in the program, several of his friends made their first donation at the age of 17.
Not only did she promote blood donation to her classmates, but Mairi took the message beyond the school community by sharing it with her family members who, in turn, spread the message. word among their friends and colleagues.
“I think getting young people involved in blood donation can be a challenge because it’s not something they hear a lot about until they’re eligible,” continued Mairi, who said the The charity’s interactive approach with students had struck a chord.
“We were given examples of mothers needing transfusions after losing a lot of blood during childbirth, and we also learned about the need for different types of blood and the short shelf life of blood.”
Megan Petursdottir, head of education at Give Blood 4 Good, said Mairi – who hopes to continue her medical studies at the universities of Glasgow or Aberdeen – has achieved “exceptionally good” results in the Young Ambassadors program .
“Give Blood 4 Good is on a mission to get as many people as possible to donate blood,” said Megan, who wants to hear from schools in Lanarkshire who want to get involved.
“We know that engaging young people can be a challenge, but by aiming to dispel myths or concerns about blood donation and engaging young people themselves to tell this story, we hope to increase awareness of the vital role that blood donation can play a role in saving lives.
“Seeing the Young Ambassadors use their creativity and enthusiasm to share the message with their peers, as well as their passion for blood donation – and telling others about it – was incredibly inspiring and demonstrates the positive impact that campaigns like the Le Give Blood 4 Good Young Ambassador program can have.
Last year, blood donations in Scotland fell to their lowest level in this century, falling by more than 13,000 according to figures from NHS Scotland.
Give Blood 4 Good believes that empowering young people to understand the impact they can have on the lives of others is essential to engaging this age group in blood donation.
Since the charity was founded in October 2019 in memory of a passionate blood donor, Patrick Smith, Give Blood 4 Good estimates that its work has touched over 4,500 lives.
Give Blood 4 Good was founded by Patrick’s sister, Hanna Smith, and Martha Greenbank. The campaign started when Patrick lost his life in an accident at the age of 21.
Patrick was extremely passionate about donating blood – so much so that he gave on the first day he could, on his 17th birthday, and regularly encouraged friends and family to follow in his footsteps.
Give Blood 4 Good aims to create a legacy for Patrick by continuing his passion and commitment to blood donation.
After organizing the first blood drive, in which more than 150 people donated blood in Patrick’s memory in the space of a week, it was pointed out that 60% of the participants had never donated blood before.
It became clear that the education surrounding blood donation needs to be improved, so Give Blood 4 Good was formed with this mission.
The program’s pilot project at Glasgow Academy was led by teacher Paul Bisland, administrator of Give Blood 4 Good.
Paul said: “Running this program at Glasgow Academy has been a great experience not only for the students in the program but also for their peers as well as our staff.
“As part of the activities that the students carried out to raise public awareness of blood donation, we organized a “blood week” at the school, where our students gave personal, social, health and economic lessons and assembly presentations to their comrades, and some who had turned 17 and even donated blood for the first time.
“The atmosphere around the school during Blood Week was great, and I’m delighted that so many students and staff engaged in the program and learned more about donating blood.”
Only 4% of those eligible to donate blood in Scotland show up and do so.
Because there are many reasons why some people cannot donate, it is all the more important to donate blood if and when you can.
Adults and children with anemia, cancer and blood disorders depend on regular blood donations – and most cannot survive without them.
Every minute, four units of blood are delivered to UK hospitals where it is also given to people who need major and emergency surgeries, including postpartum blood loss.
To meet this demand, 5,000 people need to donate blood every day – and nearly 400 new donors need to donate for the first time daily.
As soon as you turn 17, you are old enough to donate. Yet more than half of regular blood donors are over the age of 45, which is why the charity Give Blood 4 Good is on a mission to engage more young and diverse donors.
You can give blood if you are: fit and healthy; weigh between 7st 12 lbs and 25st (50kg and 158kg); aged 17 to 66; over 70 and have donated whole blood within the past two years.
If you are under 5 feet 4 inches tall, you will need to weigh more than 110 pounds to donate safely.
There are eight main blood types and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service aims to have a six day supply of each at all times.
After blood donations are tested for infections, they are separated into three components – red blood cells, plasma and platelets – and one blood donation can save or improve the lives of up to three people.
This means the exact products can be donated to those who need them, while ensuring that none of the donated blood goes to waste.
Women aged 17 to 34 are almost twice as likely to donate as men of the same age.
Because men tend to have more iron and higher platelet counts, they can donate blood every 12 weeks, while women can donate blood every 16 weeks.
Only men’s blood can be used for blood transfusions in newborns, underscoring the urgent need for more men to donate regularly.
If you have received a COVID-19 vaccine or booster under the UK vaccination programme, you can register to donate blood 48 hours after your shot.
Scottish patients need you. To make an appointment, make a request or register as a blood donor, call: 0345 90 90 999.
Lanarkshire schools interested in participating in a future Give Blood 4 Good Young Ambassadors program should email Education Manager Megan Petursdottir: [email protected]
For more information, go online or on Facebook.
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