A, B or O – what’s your type?

NI Blood Transfusion Service Giant's CausewayPeople rarely think about their blood type, and most of us don’t even know it. But if one ‘type’ were to go missing in everyday life, everyone would start to pay closer attention to the need for blood.

This was the idea behind an international awareness campaign called Missing Type, which launched on Monday 15 August. The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service joined blood donor organisations from across 21 countries to create engagement and awareness of the importance of giving blood. In Northern Ireland, three people are transfused every hour, with 500 patients needing blood every week, yet only 6% of the eligible population donate.

The indisputable fact is that blood donation saves lives. Donated blood is usually transfused within three to four days of donation and is used in numerous ways, eg, going to a child with leukaemia; a mother during childbirth; a person undergoing routine surgery; a person with cancer; or to someone involved in an accident. This is only possible due to the generosity of blood donors. We rely on them to ensure we have sufficient stocks of the correct blood types at any given time.

To ensure we have sufficient donors to donate this life-saving blood, we need to attract more than 150 new donors every week. Yet, the Missing Type campaign highlighted an international drop in new donors when compared to a decade ago, with Northern Ireland showing a reduction of nearly 36% in donors from 2005 to 2015. In an effort to address this issue, by utilising Missing Type as its theme, the campaign was aimed at encouraging more people to register as blood donors and to go on to donate blood.

Blood Transfusion Service NISo, the letters A, B and O, which make up the eight blood groups, were removed from places of high interest, from logos, and from names – and this was done on a global scale. The excitement and intrigue of the campaign was based around a teaser event, which took place at the start of the campaign, and no explanation was given as to why the letters had disappeared. This was then followed by a full media launch and reveal the next day, with momentum continuing throughout the week, during which numerous businesses, celebrities and the general public got involved.

The response from within Northern Ireland was truly incredible, with a large number of high-profile brands, individuals and organisations backing the campaign. This included Phoenix Gas, Connswater Shopping Centre, Macmillan, Belfast International Airport, HMS Caroline, ACA Models, the Institute of Directors, Belfast Giants and Pamela Ballentine.

The Daily Mirror in Northern Ireland also changed its masthead on launch day and ran articles throughout the campaign, both in its printed publications and online at Belfast Live, highlighting blood donation and showcasing real-life stories from people whose lives were changed by blood transfusion.

In total, nearly 80 Northern Ireland companies got involved, creating real impact on social media and leading to #MissingType, @givebloodni and #NI _l__d Tr_nsfusi_n all trending on Twitter.

And the end result? People in Northern Ireland enrolled in their hundreds, and we managed to nearly triple the new donor figures for that one week. The knock-on effect of highlighting blood donation in such a unique way has also led to numerous enquiries with regards to potential new donation sessions throughout the province, ensuring the impact of the campaign is seen for quite some time.

In Northern Ireland, it is possible to start donating from the age of 17, and there are a number of ways to enroll as a new blood donor:

  • Visit nibts.org
  • Call 0500 534 666
  • Text BLOOD to 60081
  • Drop into a local blood donation session

If you are thinking about donating blood, here are our top five things to think about:

  • Do you weigh more than 50kg (7st 12lb)?
  • Are you between 17 and 65 years old (for first-time donation)?
  • Do you have 45 minutes to spare?
  • Remember to always eat and drink as normal before your donation
  • If you are taking medication, always check with the medical helpline 0500 534 669

S , wh t  re y u w iting f r?