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Patient urges more donors to come forward

A man from Cowbridge calls for more people to donate blood, platelets or bone marrow after being diagnosed with a rare blood disorder.

An avid runner with ‘Cowbridge Moovers’ for many years, Gethin Charles noticed a slow decline in his running times and shortness of breath when exercising. Within hours of making the call to his GP, Gethin was sent to the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, to receive blood and platelet transfusions for the first time.

We always say ‘leave the place better than you found it’, and I want to do the same with the generous donations I’ve received

Gethin Charles

Gethin, 46, was later diagnosed with aplastic anaemia, a rare and serious blood disorder affecting around 150 people each year in the UK. The number of blood cells usually created by the bone marrow decrease, reducing the blood’s ability to clot and carry oxygen, which can be very serious.

Now Gethin is hoping more people will come forward to support patients in his position by donating with the Welsh Blood Service.

Gethin said about his experience: “I don’t know what would happen to me if it wasn’t for donors coming forward to donate blood and platelets.”

Within three months, Gethin had received over 30 transfusions of blood and platelets to help temporarily boost the number of cells in his body to an acceptable level.

“I never thought I’d be in this position where I need to receive blood and blood products. It all happened so fast.

“I’m so glad there are people that have already donated as it’s made my life more comfortable in the periods before I get my treatment to cure the disease.

“It’s really important for people to donate because you’ll never know when you or your family will need it.”

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Most patients with aplastic anaemia will require a bone marrow transplant to overcome the disease however, there are some manufactured medicines which can be used.

Welsh Blood Service Director Alan Prosser said: “Thanks to the generosity of donors giving up their time, Gethin and patients just like him can receive the vital blood and platelet transfusions they need.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to bone marrow donations, three in ten patients across the world do not find the suitable match they desperately need.

“We’ve recently launched a swab kit for anyone aged 17-30 who would like to join our Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry. These new kits are delivered right to your door, allowing those who don’t donate with us to sign up easily.”

Gethin has a lifelong relationship with the Scouts in Cowbridge after joining at just eight years old before becoming a uniform leader around 25 years ago.

He said: “In scouts, we always say ‘leave the place better than you found it’, and I want to do the same with the generous donations I’ve received.

“I want to give back. I can’t do it myself because I’ve had transfusions, so I hope sharing my story will encourage others to consider donating.”