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Local Hero – Rachel is an Ambassador for the Welsh Blood Service

Rachel Jones, Ambassador for the Welsh Blood Service

Many members of the New Directions family go above and beyond to give something back to their local community, which is why we feel the need to celebrate our Local Heroes. This month, we are shining the spotlight on our Receptionist, Rachel Jones, who first began working with New Directions in December 2015. Rachel took a brief career break to do charity work in Nepal before coming back to us in July 2019, and we are thrilled to have her back as part of our team.

Rachel is our Local Hero for October in recognition of her hard work in promoting blood donation as an Ambassador for the Welsh Blood Service. Blood supplies run low at this time of year, but Rachel is doing her bit to promote blood donation and share the importance of giving blood. She feels very proud to know that she is helping to save lives and here is her story…

Why do you choose to be an Ambassador for the Welsh Blood Service?

“The Welsh Blood Service usually say they need approximately 350 donations per day to be able to help everyone in need, but this demand has been rising in the last 10 years and blood stocks are generally always really low. I promote blood donation simply because I think it is such an easy charitable act that has maximum impact!

In just 45 minutes, you can donate enough blood to save the lives of 8 premature babies or save the life of a mother who has gone through a traumatic birth. It’s a no brainer really, we don’t need all our blood after all.”

What is the Welsh Blood Service?

“The Welsh Blood Service collects, tests, processes and distributes blood donations to Welsh Hospitals, and they solely rely on donations from members of the public. It is a fact that blood and its by-products are vital in saving lives, and many people aren’t aware of how many situations blood donations are needed for.

Blood transfusions are not just needed for victims of accidents/emergencies; premature babies desperately need it, people needing kidney, liver and other organ transplants need it, so do people with cancer or leukaemia, as well as people undergoing cardiac operations. The Welsh Blood Service also take blood to put people on the Bone Marrow register, which I signed up to during my 2nd or 3rd blood donation. Some people get called up right away to donate, some people are never called at all. You only remain on this register until you’re 31 years old. To donate you just give a few more millilitres of blood during a regular blood donation, which is then sent off to be tested and matched.”

Find out more about blood.

What does blood donation mean to you?

“It means a lot to my family and I, as in the past, a few cousins of mine have needed blood donations as a result of having cancer or being born prematurely. I chose to be an Ambassador because why not? If you can do something (anything), you should. Not just with giving blood, but with any charity or cause. Putting posters around your office or leisure centre or gym is really the least most people can do!”

How long have you been an ambassador for the Welsh Blood Service?

“I can’t actually remember when I signed up, it may have been around 2 years ago. It’s really easy to become an Ambassador, you just email their headquarters in Talbot Green and tell them where you live/work. They then send you posters every few weeks to share on social media and put up in your community. Anyone can do this, even if they don’t want to donate blood yourself.”

How many times have you donated blood?

“I’ve lost count… it must be somewhere between 15-20 times by now!”

What happens when you donate blood?

“It can be a bit nerve-wracking when you first go to donate blood, but it’s really not as bad as you’d think. Once you’ve signed in, you’re given some information leaflets to read and an iPad to complete a questionnaire on.

After drinking a pint of water, you’re taken to a booth for a quick screening to make sure you’re feeling well because you can’t donate blood if you have cold and flu symptoms. You also have a small blood sample taken from your finger to check your iron levels are okay (it stings just a little).

Next is the donation – the needle does sting a little going in, but again it’s not as bad as you’d think. You’re left to relax on a little bed for about ten minutes, with lots of staff walking around to keep an eye on you. Once 475mls of blood has been taken, they remove the needle and bandage you up. You’re encouraged to sit down and have some biscuits (Penguins!) with tea and squash for ten minutes before you go.

It usually takes around 45 mins to do all this, sometimes less if it’s quiet. You might be there longer on your first donation and will definitely be longer again if you walk in at a busy time. However, I’ve always found the staff really funny – if they can see you’re nervous they really make an effort to distract you and make you laugh.”

Read more about what to expect when you give blood.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to donate blood?

“My top tip would be to book a slot online! You’ll be in and out much quicker if you book, otherwise walk-ins usually have to wait a while. Also, you’ll be able to see where other clinics are in your area by booking online.

I would also advise you to make sure you’ve eaten and had lots of water to drink before you go. If you don’t, there’s a chance you’ll be ill and/or faint (I actually fainted once and wouldn’t recommend it!).”

Why should others consider donating blood?

“Aside from the obvious reason ‘TO SAVE LIVES’ … I think people should donate for themselves too. There’s a stigma around feeling good about yourself for doing charitable acts, but there’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself for giving to and helping worthy causes! Shouting about it raises awareness and inspires other people too.”

Rachel is an inspiration to us all and we are proud of her hard work on behalf of the Welsh blood Service. If you want to donate blood too, find your nearest donation point and book an appointment or attend a walk-in clinic today.

Blood donation

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