JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Sonya Binns-Lawrence believes in giving back to her country, and she has found a way to make a significant contribution. She is Jamaica’s champion blood donor, going in to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) four times per year (the maximum allowable).
  • Mrs. Binns-Lawrence is now employed as a phlebotomist within the private sector and explains that her further exposure to the procedures involved made her even more amenable to becoming a voluntary donor.
  • The committed blood donor, who was named on the Blood Donors Honour List in 2016, having donated more than 50 units of blood, says she prays continuously for health and strength to continue to give and is “thankful for the privilege of gifting others with this life-giving fluid”.

Sonya Binns-Lawrence believes in giving back to her country, and she has found a way to make a significant contribution.

She is Jamaica’s champion blood donor, going in to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) four times per year (the maximum allowable).

Mrs. Binns-Lawrence tells JIS News that her first experience with donating blood was in 1983 when she was just 17 years old.

She had gone to give blood on behalf of her sister, who was having a baby at the time.

She approached the experience with some trepidation, not knowing what to expect, but over time she has come to appreciate that there is nothing to fear in being a blood donor.

She was eventually employed to NBTS in the lab and as time passed she realised that it was safe.

Her fears of possibly contracting a disease were allayed as she realised that it was not possible, and there began her journey of becoming a voluntary blood donor.

Mrs. Binns-Lawrence is now employed as a phlebotomist within the private sector and explains that her further exposure to the procedures involved made her even more amenable to becoming a voluntary donor.

She is resolute that all Jamaicans who are able to should become voluntary blood donors as a way of giving back to their community and country, while issuing a reminder that one pint of blood can save up to three lives.

Mrs. Binns-Lawrence points out that there are also several benefits to giving blood that persons should bear in mind when contemplating the decision. “

It reduces the risk of cancer and the risk of heart disease. It burns calories, and each time you donate blood, your body generates new blood, and that keeps you healthy,” she says.

“It also balances the iron level in the body, and that gives you a better blood flow. So, while donating blood is all about helping those in need, there are benefits in it for the donor as well,” she adds.

She says that she would encourage everybody to open a Blood Bank account and become a voluntary donor, because in giving, you never know who is receiving and who you are helping.

“You will also be helping to ensure that blood is in the bank at all times,” she notes.

The committed blood donor, who was named on the Blood Donors Honour List in 2016, having donated more than 50 units of blood, says she prays continuously for health and strength to continue to give and is “thankful for the privilege of gifting others with this life-giving fluid”.

The NBTS Blood Donor Organiser, Igol Allen, adds his voice to the call for voluntary blood donors and explains that many persons are unaware of the importance of donating blood outside of periods of emergency.

“People will give when someone is sick, particularly when it is a loved one or someone connected with family or friends. Once there is a need, we mobilise the system to attend to the situation; however, the shelf life of blood is 35 days, so it is important to donate consistently in order to sustain the system,” he explains.

Recent first-time blood donor, Oroyo Eubanks, says that giving blood, as small as it may seem to an individual, is really a momentous thing to do when one considers the life-giving nature of blood.

He says he is thinking of becoming a regular voluntary blood donor and that every individual should try to do so.

“Think about the help that you will be giving to others who are in need. It may be someone who is close to you, or your family who may be in need and your blood may be the key to save someone’s life, so I’d encourage others to do it,” he tells JIS News.

“My experience was very good. It was smoother than I had expected it to be. It was a quick process. The nurses were very good in terms of informing donors of what to do to ensure their comfort,” he adds.

While speaking at a ceremony to mark World Blood Donor Day in June 2016 Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said there is a need for more blood donors, in order for the NBTS to reach its target of 35,000 units for the year. Dr. Tufton said the collection figure must be improved, as there is great demand for blood by persons involved in road crashes and other emergencies.

The Minister recently outlined some measures by the Ministry of Health to increase blood donation. These include establishing hospital transfusion committees and increasing haemo-vigilance in all hospitals, with a view to getting voluntary donations to at least 25 per cent.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Noreen Jack, says that the need for safe blood is a reality across the region, as it is a most important element in modern healthcare.

She points out that there is an urgent need to address the safe-blood issue in the Americas, which can only be remedied by a constant supply of safe blood from voluntary unpaid donors.

The NBTS welcomes all persons between the ages of 17 and 65 who are interested in becoming voluntary blood donors to make contact with the Blood Bank at 922-5181- 4.

In addition to the headquarters at Slipe Pen Road, there are blood collection centres across the island where donors can visit to give blood. These are located at the Port Antonio, St. Ann’s Bay, Falmouth, Savanna-la-Mar, Mandeville Regional, and May Pen hospitals, which are open from Monday to Friday.

There is currently a temporary arrangement in place on the grounds of Cornwall Regional Hospital where the NBTS mobile unit has been doing collections in a designated area.

The National Chest Hospital facility on Barbican Road, St. Andrew, is open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays to accommodate blood donations.