A STRETFORD man has donated blood 59 times, saving up to 177 lives.

Over the past year, seven per cent more black people have started donating blood in Greater Manchester.

NHS Blood and Transplant need more black donors as they are more likely to have the blood type needed to treat the increasing number of patients suffering from sickle cell disease.

Joel Bowes is one of the active black donors from Greater Manchester who has donated the most blood.

The 49-year-old from Stretford has personal experience of the severity of sickle cell disease. One of Joel’s school friends died from sickle cell complications.

Joel said: “He was a young man – only in his early 20s.

“When I speak to young people I always hammer home the point about sickle cell disease – I’ve only seen black people donating alongside me a few times and we need more.”

Joel started giving blood as a young man himself.

He said: “I read about how in America people got paid for donating blood. I said ‘I wish I could get paid’. My dad couldn’t donate himself but he said ‘if you are going to give, you must give freely’. And that’s the reason I donated. My dad would have given but he couldn’t and if you can give to help someone, you should.”

Joel donates at the Norfolk House Donor Centre in the city centre.

He said “You always hear about how people are in need so I kept donating. Mostly I never thought about the race side thought I know more and more there is a need for black donors.

“My son and daughter came with me to donate once and I was apologising to the staff saying ‘are they getting in your way?’ They said ‘no’, keep bringing them and hopefully they will donate one say too’.”

Mike Stredder, Director of Blood Donation said: “This month we can celebrate how more and more black people in Greater Manchester are saving lives by donating blood.

“However the shortage of black donors remains, which makes it harder to find the best matched blood for black people, putting them at greater risk of potentially life threatening transfusion reactions.

To make a donation appointment, call 0300 1232323.