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Cancer patient who received lifesaving transfusions urging more people to donate blood

A father-of-four from Pontarddulais, Swansea, is calling for more people to give blood, platelets, or bone marrow with the Welsh Blood Service after being diagnosed with cancer.

57-year-old Martin Nicholls was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia three years ago and started treatment to overcome the disease in January 2023.

Martin has since received around 25 units of blood due to his blood count dropping dangerously low. During this time, Martin became transfusion dependent, requiring multiple blood transfusions every fortnight for three months. Fortunately, the transfusions Martin received helped stabilise his condition, allowing him to continue his cancer treatment and his day-to-day life, including his work as the CEO of Swansea Council.

He is now hoping his story will encourage more people to come forward and support patients in need of blood, platelets and bone marrow.

Martin said: “Whilst waiting for one of my transfusions, I realised when I used to donate, I’d never given any thought to how much this would mean to someone. Relying on people you have never met to save your life is incredible, and I will be forever grateful to those selfless heroes for giving up their time to help someone like me when I needed it the most.”

Around 350 donations are needed daily across Wales to help save the lives of patients in need like Martin.

Martin, who lives with his wife of 34 years, Lynda and has four grown up children, all of which have now signed up to donate blood and bone marrow. Martin continued: “The blood donations I have received have given me the chance to spend more precious time with my family and continue working. Without their help I may not even be here today.

“Before my treatments started, I could barely climb the stairs but now I have even managed to raise £5,000 for Blood Cancer UK by running the Swansea 10k in September with Heidi and Rosie. None of it would have been possible without blood donors, it is simply the best gift you could ever give.”

Only three per cent of the eligible population in Wales are active blood donors, which is why it is vital new donors continue to come forward. This is a statistic Martin is hoping to change by encouraging more people to donate.

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

“The need for blood never stops. These winter months are particularly challenging for the NHS, so if you haven’t given blood for a while or are considering joining our incredible community of lifesavers, there has never been a better time to give it a go.”

Winter pressures also make it difficult for the Welsh Blood Service to recruit bone marrow volunteers. Martin’s treatments which include chemotherapy, immunotherapy and year-long medication are expected to put his cancer into remission, but for some blood cancer patients, their only hope is to receive a bone marrow transplant.

The Welsh Blood Service aims to recruit 4,000 17 to 30-year-olds to join the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry every year.

Alan continued: “We are also busy recruiting more people to join our Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry either when they donate blood or by requesting a swab kit through our website. The kits are delivered right to your door, allowing more people to join than ever before.”

“Unfortunately, when it comes to bone marrow donations, three in ten patients across the world do not find the suitable match they desperately need and that statistic is even higher for donors from a black-heritage background, so we are looking for more volunteers, particularly from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to consider signing up to our panel of lifesavers.”

Across Swansea, over 10,000 units of blood and blood products are needed each year to provide care to patients at Morriston Hospital and Singleton Hospital.

Appointments are available in the Swansea area until the end of the year at five locations – Swansea University Bay Campus (27 Nov and 5 Dec), Killay (8 Dec), Swansea.com Stadium (13 Dec), Asda Gorseinon (18 Dec) and Mumbles (22 Dec).

Help someone in need by donating blood, platelets or bone marrow with the Welsh Blood Service. Find out more at welshblood.org.uk or book today using this link: www.wbs.wales/martin