Gary backs our drive for donors

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AS WELL as giving blood about 100 times, firefighter Gary Elston has also donated platelets 500 times.

The 54-year-old was recognised by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) for his 30-year commitment.

Gary, of Titchfield Common, is backing The News’ Give Blood This Christmas campaign, which aims to get 200 new, young donors signed on to the blood donor register.

The Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service watch manager for community and road safety was one of 46 donors from the county awarded for their life-saving efforts.

He said: ‘I started donating blood as a young firefighter because one of my colleagues asked me what blood group I was.

‘It was just natural curiosity I suppose and I started to give blood. Later on I was asked to give platelets, trying out a new machine and a relatively new procedure at the time, and I found it was an easy thing to do.

‘I hope to continue donating for as long as I possibly can. My goal is to make the highest number of donations on the south coast.’

Gary goes to a clinic in Southampton once every 16 days to donate platelets, which are very small cells found in ‘whole blood’.

They work with the clotting factors in plasma to form a mesh ‘plug’ to stop or prevent bleeding.

Within his role in road safety education, Gary encourages people to sign up to become a donor.

‘You never know when you will need it,’ he added.

‘I visit schools in the area and speak to them about safety on bikes, mopeds and cars.

‘Younger people are more likely to ride mopeds and could have an accident, so I urge them to join.’

Donor eligibilty and how to register

FOR any nervous new donor, here is advice on what to do to prepare yourself for a donation. The advice has been given by NHS Blood and Transplant, which organisations donor sessions. It gives the following information:

· Distractions help reduce nervousness so bring an MP3 player, book or a friend along with you to the donation session.

· On the day of donation and the evening before, drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol.

· Regular meals before donating are necessary for maintaining blood sugars and ward off light-headedness.

· A good night’s sleep the evening before is beneficial to wellbeing and recovery.

· Tight clothing around the arms restricts blood flow and can cause bruises, so wear something loose and comfortable.

· Eligibility criteria to donate may vary so know your medical, body piercing and travel history to avoid delays. The top reasons people are deferred from sessions are they feel unwell, taking a course of antibiotics, dental work, cardiovascular conditions, infection within the past two weeks, being on a hospital waiting list or undergoing medical tests, travel, and piercings/tattoos.

Tips to prepare yourself to donate

THERE are some criteria to meet in order to become a blood donor.

Anyone aged between 17 and 65, weighing more than 50kg (7st 12lb) and in general good health could potentially start saving lives by becoming a blood donor. There is no upper age limit for donors who have donated in the past two years. People can register in a number of ways:

· They can attend any of the sessions listed on the right hand side of this page and speak to a member of staff.

· People can visit and register online.

· The News is working with NHS Blood and Transplant to get 200 new blood donors on to the register.

If you are a new donor then The News would like to hear from you.

Once you have registered, then let health reporter Priya Mistry know.

People are asked to give their name, age, address, contact number and the reason for registering to donate blood.

At the end of the campaign, a roll of honour will be printed in the paper.

New donors can email They can call (023) 9262 2130.

Or write to: Give Blood This Christmas, The News, The News Centre, London Road, Hilsea, Portsmouth, PO2 9SX.

Where you can give blood

· Tomorrow Wickham Community Centre, Mill Lane, Wickham: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Monday, December 10, Holiday Inn, Cartwright Drive, Titchfield: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Tuesday, December 11, St Swithin’s Church, Waverley Road, Southsea: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Wednesday, December 12, Fratton Park, The Victory Lounge, Fratton Way, Portsmouth, from 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Friday, December 14, Porchester Community Centre, Westlands Grove, Porchester: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Monday, December 17, Holiday Inn, Cartwright Drive, Titchfield: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Wednesday, December 19, Waltham Chase Village Hall, Winchester Road, Waltham Chase: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Thursday, December 20, Petersfield Festival Hall, Heath Road, Petersfield: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Friday, December 21, All Saints Church, Hambledon Road, Denmead: 1.30pm to 3.25pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.

· Monday, December 24, Sarisbury Green Community Centre, The Green, Sarisbury Green: 10am to 12.25pm and 1.45pm to 4.15pm.