A British mother-of-one is proving that the power to save lives is within all of us — literally.
Sue Olds, from Penzance in Cornwall, has a blood type so rare that lots of people will probably never even have heard of it: blood type -D-.
The NHS support worker is in fact the only donor with her blood type registered to donate blood in Britain — out of over 830,000 registered donors.
The blood type is so rare that, globally, only 110 people are registered as having it, and 80% of those live in Japan.
She’s made 46 donations so far, and the NHS says she’s already saved or improved dozens of lives — including a baby.
For some of these patients, according to an NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) spokesperson, Olds would have been the only donor able to help them.
Sue Olds is our only donor with the incredibly rare blood type -D-.— GiveBlood 🅰️🅱️🆎🅾️ (@GiveBloodNHS) August 8, 2019
She's made 46 donations so far which have been used to keep dozens of people alive. https://t.co/NgDg7ZmQ9H
What’s more, if she continues to donate throughout her lifetime, the NHS estimates that she’ll save or improve 100 lives.
“I enjoy donating; the session staff are extremely caring, they always make me feel welcome,” she said in a statement. “It’s a positive experience with no need to be anxious.”
“When the blood goes off I have a really good feeling that I am helping someone,” she added.
Olds’ blood donations can be given to patients with almost any Rhesus-related blood type; while some of her donations are also frozen and stored in the National Frozen Blood Bank in Liverpool.
Her donations can be used to support people with cancer and having chemotherapy, as well as people in road traffic accidents and other traumatic accidents, and premature babies.
Despite having started donating blood in 1994, Olds only found out earlier this year the “facts and figures” about her blood type.
“It’s a bit overwhelming,” she told the Daily Mirror. “Life is very precious, I think whether it’s saving a baby’s life or a pensioner’s, it makes no difference. It’s such a small thing that you can do but it’s massive for the family of the person you save.”
Olds is also encouraging everyone, regardless of how rare their blood is, to sign up and start donating.
“It’s just one hour of your day every four months,” she added. “It’s nothing.”
While the NHS does have other regular donors with very rare blood types — such as one KL- donor and one HY- donor — Olds’ blood type is “probably the rarest and most valuable”, the NHS said.
Mike Stredder, director of blood donation for NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), said: “If someone with a very rare blood type falls ill, there may be only a handful of donors in the whole country who can help them, or even just one.”
NHSBT is an essential part of the NHS, working to save and improve lives through public donation. But it needs to collect 1.4 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients.
There are four main blood groups — O, A, B, and AB. Meanwhile, those with O negative and B negative are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls, according to the NHSBT, so they are particularly keen for people with those blood groups to donate as often as possible.
The NHS also added that it urgently needs more black donors, as “they are more likely to have the blood type needed to treat the increasing number of patients suffering from sickle cell disease.”
To become a blood donor, you can register and book appointments at blood.co.uk, or by calling 0300 123 23 23.