I started giving blood in my 20s – now 64, I’ve saved 450 lives

Lloyd Simmonds: I'm one of the UK's most prolific Black blood donors at 64

I drop-in so often now that I feel like a part of the family (Picture: NHS Blood & Transplant/Havas Studios)

As a former police officer I’ve seen a lot of death in my lifetime – but I’ve also saved a lot of lives, too.

Some I saved during the decade I served in the Met, but the majority have been through giving blood.

In fact, since I started donating in 1976, I’ve saved more than 450 lives.

My decision to donate wasn’t triggered by a specific moment, or life altering news.

It was actually as simple as the clinic dropping off leaflets to the office where I then worked as a trader.

They explained how the process worked and that there was a shortage of donors – especially among people with Black heritage, and sadly this is still the case in 2023.

As I read through the leaflet, I thought to myself ‘why not?’ – to me, becoming a part of the solution was a no-brainer.

Of course, in the early days, I would ask lots of questions about the process of giving and what the blood would be used for. It made me feel more at ease knowing the ins and outs.

But I drop-in so often now that I feel like a part of the family.

Lloyd Simmonds: I'm one of the UK's most prolific Black blood donors at 64

I even remember the day I gave my 150th donation (Picture: NHS Blood & Transplant/Havas Studios)

The nurses and I have gone from exchanging the usual pleasantries to knowing each other on a first name basis – we even share stories about our holidays and updates on our loved ones.

So much has changed since I first started giving blood, too.

Registering is easier than ever now. You can do it online by submitting your details, answering some very simple questions, then find your local centre and manage your appointments. Whereas back in the day, you’d have to go down in person or call up, but now I book an appointment every 12 weeks at a time that suits me.

I’ve seen so many people die simply because they couldn’t receive the right blood due to a shortage. All it takes is one donation to save up to three lives

From start to finish the appointment usually takes around 40 minutes, but the actual blood donation only lasts 10 minutes.

Plus, at the end of the appointment, you get a ‘thank you’ and of course a tasty treat – my personal favourites are the chocolate biscuits.

But what matters more than that is knowing that my blood is going to do good.

I’m in my mid-sixties now, so I’ve been giving blood for over 40 years. I even remember the day I gave my 150th donation.

Though it started out like any other appointment, the nurses soon informed me of the milestone I reached. I couldn’t believe it! To double check, I had a proper look at my appointment letter and there it was in black and white, the note saying it was my 150th donation.

Lloyd Simmonds: I'm one of the UK's most prolific Black blood donors at 64

The 20ft piece is called Giving Type and it also highlights the achievements of four other donors of Black heritage (Picture: NHS Blood & Transplant/Havas Studios)

A blood donation is roughly one pint, and with that single donation it can help to save or improve the lives of up to three adults or six babies, so in terms of adults that would be 450 people.

Even though that seems like a lot of blood to give, one of the reasons I’ve remained consistent is for people who are fighting sickle cell disease, which has become the fastest growing genetic blood disorder in the UK.

Sickle cell disease is a serious and lifelong health condition and it mostly affects people of African or Caribbean heritage.

Those with the condition produce unusually shaped red blood cells that don’t live as long as healthy blood cells. These cells can then block blood vessels leading to a number of health issues such as organ damage and strokes.

In terms of treatment, many patients need regular blood transfusions to stay alive.

Lloyd Simmonds: I'm one of the UK's most prolific Black blood donors at 64

Never did I imagine that picking up a leaflet all those years ago would lead me to saving 450 people but I am so glad it did (Picture: NHS Blood & Transplant/Havas Studios)

But it’s the Ro subtype of blood that is used and this is 55% more likely to be found in people of Black heritage compared to 2% in other ethnicities.

I was recently chosen to feature in a mural painted by a fantastic street artist called Dreph. The 20ft piece is called Giving Type and it also highlights the achievements of four other donors of Black heritage.

It was unveiled at the Stockwell Hall of Fame in London and such a huge honour to be recognised as part of the campaign by NHS Blood & Transplant to recruit 12,000 more donors. I hope that the mural encourages more people from Black communities to head down to their local donation centre and give blood – even Dreph was inspired and donated after he heard our stories!

Outside of treatment for sickle cell patients, blood donations are also used in emergencies, operations, childbirth and are also used to treat certain blood disorders and cancers.

That’s why we need more donors and why I continue to raise awareness.

I’ve seen so many people die simply because they couldn’t receive the right blood due to a shortage. All it takes is one donation to save up to three lives.

Never did I imagine that picking up a leaflet all those years ago would lead me to saving 450 people but I am so glad it did. Very shortly after donating I get an email telling me which hospital the blood has been delivered to – those who donate don’t ever know who has received the blood but there’s something humbling about being informed about the journey of where it has gone.

I want other people to know you are never too old to give blood. I’m 64, but I will continue to donate for as long as I am physically able.

If you are a giving type, become a blood donor via the ‘GiveBloodNHS’ app or at www.blood.co.uk.



Black History Month

October marks Black History Month, which reflects on the achievements, cultures and contributions of Black people in the UK and across the globe, as well as educating others about the diverse history of those from African and Caribbean descent.

For more information about the events and celebrations that are taking place this year, visit the official Black History Month website.

Black History Month logo

October is Black History Month (Picture: Metro.co.uk)


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