The location is an interesting one, nestled in between buildings at the top of town directly opposite the Borough Council is Halsey Hall. Normally, an inconspicuous site, you might have driven past it a hundred times and never paid any attention.
Today, however, as we drive along Rickmansworth Road, two very large vehicles with the distinctive NHS logo take up half of the car park. Halsey, is a registered NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) donation venue and today they’re hosting a blood drive.
To mark World Blood Donor Day, we decided to go along and see how it all works.
Take a look at www.blood.co.uk, and you’ll find that along with Halsey, there are five more venues in Watford that host blood donation drives. The Church of Jesus Christ on Hempstead Road; St. Mary The Virgin Church in Rickmansworth, and both All Saints Church Halls in Watford and Rickmansworth.
Entering the venue, it’s a hive of activity – we’ve been in the main hall before, but today it’s transformed. We witness a dozen nurses and half a dozen donor chairs occupied by real-life heroes. Our point of contact, Haydn, the most senior nurse on site, buzzes around from donor to nurse to waiting donor.
We manage a word with a middle-aged lady waiting her turn, it turns out she’s a nurse at Watford General Hospital and has been donating for years.
“I’m a nurse, and I can see what good blood donation can do. I’ve probably donated over 90 times” (donor).
10 minutes into our arrival, looking around at everyone in attendance, a sudden sense of elation drifts over, and the goodness of humankind is restored in the presence of all these selfless individuals. There are 1.3 million registered voluntary blood donors in the UK, but we are told that 200,000 new donors are still needed every year.
We also learn that the NHSBT issued an urgent appeal for O neg and B neg donors in Watford this week as increases in demand for certain blood types led to a fall in stocks. The appeal is even more urgent for people from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community to give blood, and help ensure those in need receive the best possible blood match.
Getting back to the session, there’s a steady flow of people coming and going. We estimate that the average waiting time is about 20 mins, add to that 10 mins to actually donate and it’s clear that some of those here are fitting it into their lunch hour.
Again the mind drifts, as we hear that each unit a person donates (about 1 pint) can be divided into the three primary components: red blood cells, plasma, and platelets – saving up to three lives. Imagine that conversation back at the desk: “what did you do for lunch?”. “Not much really, other than potentially save three people’s lives…”
Eventually, we leave Halsey galvanised and thankful for coming along to see what goes on at a blood drive, and sharing our experience with the town.
COME ON WATFORD: If you think you’re up to it and want to donate your blood, visit www.blood.co.uk or call the donor line on 0300 123 23 23. Who knows whose life you might end up saving.