Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Callum Fairhurst
A mother whose premature baby boy needed 14 blood transfusions has urged people to donate this Christmas, amid warnings that Covid is leading more donors than ever to cancel their appointments.
Kimberly Byers from St Neots in Cambridgeshire made the plea as she returned to give blood herself on the first day she was permitted - exactly six months after the birth of her son Rory.
He was born at just 24 weeks in June, and in the time since he has needed 14 life-saving transfusions. The youngster is still being looked after by doctors at the newborn intensive care unit at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge.
Ms Byers took the first chance she could to give something back after Rory's birth, as she gave blood on Thursday morning.
“Because of 14 different people who gave blood to save my baby boy's life, I just needed to come at the first opportunity," she said.
"Without people giving blood, my boy wouldn't be here today. My own child would not be here so I needed to give it back so that I can help someone else in that situation."
Across East Anglia, a record 1,650 appointments to give blood were cancelled in the first week of December, with health bosses blaming coronavirus and winter flu pressures.
Donor centre manager Alan Wakeman said: "It's generally due to ill health at the moment - colds, flus and people having coronavirus, so we constantly need to make sure we can supply what hospitals need."
He said giving blood was "probably the easiest thing to do to save a life".
As Ms Byers gave her first blood donation, there were tears of joy - emotions mirrored in many of the doctors, nurses and other donors as the story of how donations like theirs had saved Rory's life.
Speaking afterwards, she said she wanted people to know what a difference a simple donation could make - with one pint of blood potentially helping up to three people.
"The process has been really easy - it was my first time doing it and I didn’t feel any pain at all," she added.