Lifeblood urges people to donate again after woman’s rare blood type found

An urgent call out for Australians to donate blood matching a very rare blood type has resulted in thousands of donors coming forward – with 13 who matched the blood type.

Amira Soliman and her husband Ahmed El Hayes today thanked those that came forward, and urged people to continue to donate.

“I honestly did not know if enough suitable blood would be found, but my hopes rose each day just hearing about how many people, kind strangers were donating. I thank you all,” said Soliman.

“I was especially touched by the people who donated for the first time.”

Soliman had a life-saving open heart surgery three months ago, where she required more of her special blood type.

The LifeBlood CEO Stephen Cornelissen says 5,400 new donors answered the call: “Everyday we provide supplies to hospitals to treat 1000s of patients. Usually this is a straightforward process, but every now and again, it’s not.”

While most people are aware of the basic blood types like AB, A, B and O and the plus or minus, there are actually hundreds of different ‘antigens’ or surface proteins on red blood cells.

Combinations of these different antigens on the cell surface can sometimes create rare blood types, which require Lifeblood to look further afield to find a matching donor.

LifeBlood CEO Stephen Cornelissen. Credit: Tyler Fisher/Cosmos

The team ended up finding two donors in South Australia, and 11 other donors around the country that had a blood match for Soliman. There was also 8 from the larger international rare blood network.

“We do phenotype and genotype testing when the blood comes in, looking for those specific elements on the red cell. If there’s rare matches, we might tell them ‘you’re a rare match, we don’t have enough, please come in and donate more frequently’,” Cornelissen told Cosmos.  

“We discovered someone recently whose blood type we’d never seen before.”

Although plenty of new donors were discovered through the drive, Lifeblood now is asking those onetime donors to donate regularly.

Nationally, 70 percent of people who donated for the first time during Soliman’s campaign have not yet returned or booked another appointment. Lifeblood is also currently asking for more donations from those with O+ and O- blood.

“If you donated for the first time during the Amira appeal, that’s wonderful, but we really want to ask you to please come back,” Cornelissen said.

“It’s been about three months since Amira’s campaign, and that means you are now eligible to donate blood again.”

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