Mum whose unborn son needed life-saving blood transfusion joins call for donors

A mum-of-three whose unborn baby received a life-saving blood transfusion while he was still in the womb is encouraging more people to consider donating blood.

Nate Davies and his mother Rebecca were diagnosed with rhesus disease, a rare and potentially deadly condition which sees the mother’s blood produce antibodies which attack the baby’s blood.

Nate, from Dinas Powys, received a blood transfusion at 28 weeks in the womb, then another when he was just a day old, after being delivered prematurely.

Now seven years old, Rebecca said she is “very, very grateful” to the blood donors who saved her son’s life.

Baby Nate received a second blood transfusion just a day after being born prematurely. Credit: Rebecca Davies

Explaining how the procedure worked, Rebecca told ITV Cymru Wales: "They insert the needle through the stomach into the umbilical cord. Within minutes they get the results and know exactly how much they need to give to the baby.

"It turns out he was quite anaemic and if he didn’t have that blood while I was pregnant it wouldn’t have been the same outcome.

"He was quite poorly, so was covered in wires and strapped to different machines and things, but knowing that he has that blood is just such a relief because if it’s not there, there’s nothing you can do.

"That’s the thing that saved his life is the blood before and after he was born."

A 10-time blood donor herself, Rebecca added: "It's a life-saving department, really. If you can donate, please go and do it, it doesn't take long. If you're eligible, go and save lives."

Rebecca described keen gamer Nate, now seven years old, as "outgoing, funny and bubbly".

The Welsh Blood Service needs around 350 donations every day to meet demand in hospitals across Wales.

It is estimated that one donation can help save up to three lives.

While many people are regular donors, a steady flow is never guaranteed and the service always needs more people to volunteer.

Jayne Davey, head of collection services, said: “Throughout life there’ll be all sorts of things that stop us being able to donate.

“Perhaps our own health might or we might have something that happens to us that means our blood isn’t able to be donated anymore, so we need to make sure that we’re always regenerating those panels of donors so that we’ve got that choice available.

“It’s a medicine that they are giving of themselves to others. It’s a fantastic, fantastic gift that they give to people.”

The entire process of donating blood, from arrival to departure, takes around 45 minutes to an hour.

Together, husband and wife Siobhan and Gareth Bickerton have donated blood well over 50 times.

"I've got O negative blood so that can be given to anybody and it's usually used for neonates so I think why wouldn't I?" Siobhan said.

Gareth added: "We both think it's so important that we really do push the message out that more people should do it.

"It's so easy to do, it's not stressful, the staff are lovely and it's a myth that we do it for the free biscuits."

Steve Hicks has been donating his blood for around 30 years.

"It's quite a simple process, it doesn't take too long but if you think about it it's actually a life-saving activity," he said.

"[My wife and I] like to support the NHS, we firmly believe in the NHS here in Wales - after all it was started by a Welshman - so we come down as often as we can."

Frances Brown, 26, has donated blood twice after initially feeling nervous about it.

"I'm quite squeamish so I always thought I could never do it," she said.

"It definitely makes you feel good leaving because you go away and you're thinking about the fact that could be so beneficial to somebody."

Some of the most common circumstances where a blood transfusion might be needed are for patients who have been involved in an accident or for mothers during childbirth.

The service is currently developing a way to notify donors when their blood has been sent to a hospital for use.

It is particularly encouraging more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to consider donating blood, and also asking people to consider joining its stem cell registry.

Who can donate blood?


The rules around donating depend on whether you have donated before.

You can become a donor as soon as you turn 17. You can give blood until you are 66, at which point you can continue doing so as long as you have given at least one complete blood donation before.

There is no upper age limit for giving blood. From aged 70, providing you are in good health, you can continue to give blood as long as you have successfully donated within the last two years.

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You have to be over 7st 12lb (50 kg) to donate. If you are a female under 20 you should check your eligibility on the Welsh Blood Service website.

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Male donors must wait a minimum of 12 full weeks between each blood donation and can give up to four donations in a calendar year.

Female donors must wait a minimum of 16 full weeks between each blood donation and can give up to three donations in a calendar year.

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Infectious diseases

Many diseases are not infectious and so are not normally a risk however, some infectious diseases can be passed on through donated material, even before a potential donor develops any symptoms of the infection.

People with measles, mumps, chickenpox, shingles or German measles can donate provided they have been fully recovered for two weeks or more.

If you have been in contact with someone with an infectious disease and have never had the disease you must wait four weeks before donating.

If you have had or been exposed to monkeypox you should contact the Welsh Blood Service to check your eligibility.

You should also check your eligibility if you have received any recent vaccinations.

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Prescribed and non-prescribed drugs

You may need to wait a certain period of time before donating blood after taking prescription medication, such as antibiotics.

There are certain medications that prevent you from donating blood. These include finasteride, acitretin and isotretinoin, anti-thyroid drugs, drugs that suppress the immune system, sodium valproate and the related drugs valproic acid.

You are unable to donate if you have been advised to take iron supplements by your doctor or nurse.

You must never give blood if you have ever injected or been injected with non-prescribed drugs, even if it was a long time ago or happened only once.

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Serious illness

If you are seriously ill you may be unable to donate.

Common conditions that mean you are unable to donate blood include heart disease, cancer, stroke, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic lung disease (except asthma) and chronic fatigue syndrome.

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You cannot give blood if you are pregnant.

If your pregnancy lasted less than 12 weeks you may be able to donate but are urged to get in touch with the Welsh Blood Service to discuss.

If your pregnancy lasted for more than 12 weeks then you should wait until six months have passed from the end of your pregnancy before giving blood. This gives you time to replace the iron normally lost during pregnancy.

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Sexual relationships

You cannot donate if you are HIV positive or receiving treatment for HIV, are HTLV positive, are a hepatitis B or hepatitis C carrier, or if you have ever been diagnosed with syphilis, even if treated.

There are other eligibility criteria around sexual activity you must pass before donating blood, details of which are on the Welsh Blood Service website.

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Tattoos and piercings

You have to wait 120 days after getting tattoos, piercings or semi-permanent makeup before donating blood.

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Blood transfusion or transplanted material

If you have received, or think you may have received, a blood transfusion or transplanted material since 1 January 1980 you will not be able to give blood.

This measure was introduced in 2004 by the UK Transfusion Services. It is one of a range of measures designed to minimise the risk of passing variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease through the population.

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Travel outside the UK can affect whether or not you can give blood. This is because some infections may be caught abroad, usually through mosquito or other insect bites.

If you have travelled or are planning to travel abroad, some destinations will prevent you from donating for a period of time following your visit, including popular destinations such as parts of Spain or France and all of Italy.

You can enter the name of the country you plan to visit or have visited here to see if you are likely to be deferred or not.

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