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Suffolk boy meets blood donor who saved his life as a premature baby

Reunion: Mum Helen with Sebastian and donor Andrew Spence Picture: NHSBT

Reunion: Mum Helen with Sebastian and donor Andrew Spence Picture: NHSBT

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A Suffolk six-year-old enjoyed an emotional reunion with the blood donor who saved his life as a premature baby.

Sebastian Cockerill, from Sudbury, was born by emergency caesarean at 25 weeks, and his bone marrow was not mature enough to produce the required red blood cells to keep him alive.

He received several lifesaving blood transfusions at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit - including one with O negative blood from 43-year-old Andrew Spence, from Corby in Northamptonshire.

Seb and his mother Helen, 41, have now met Mr Spence as NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) urged O negative donors to see if family members share the valuable blood type to help meet the huge demand from hospitals.

Mum Helen with Sebastian and donor Andrew Spence Picture: NHSBTMum Helen with Sebastian and donor Andrew Spence Picture: NHSBT

NHSBT said hospitals need an increasing amount of O negative blood, the type that can be given to almost anyone.

O negative blood is valuable in emergencies when there is no time to test a patient's blood type and is often used for newborn and premature babies.

The appeal for new donors is focused on NHSBT's 23 permanent donor centres with capacity - not its community sessions - with the nearest facility in Cambridge.

Blood donor Andrew Spence meets Seb Cockerill Picture: NHSBTBlood donor Andrew Spence meets Seb Cockerill Picture: NHSBT

During the meeting, Seb presented Mr Spence with a card that read: "To Andrew, thank you for letting me have some of your blood."

The six-year-old said: "The blood was in Andrew's veins and it's gone into my veins. People should go and donate blood and save lives like Andrew did to me."

Mr Spence said: "The day was fantastic - what an amazing, emotional experience. Seb and his mum Helen were wonderful. He truly is a remarkable young man."

Sebastian as a premature baby Picture: NHSBTSebastian as a premature baby Picture: NHSBT

Mrs Cockerill said: "Seb was absolutely thrilled to meet Andrew and he has asked a couple of times now when we will see him again.

"Seb would not have survived without Andrew and the other donors.

"He has completed year one of school. He loves Lego and spending lots of time playing with his friends and cousins.

Blood donor Andrew Spence meets Seb Cockerill Picture: NHSBTBlood donor Andrew Spence meets Seb Cockerill Picture: NHSBT

"It is so amazing to see after such a frightening start to his life."

The O negative type now makes up 14% of all the blood issued to hospitals, the highest ever level, despite only 8% of the population having this blood type.

NHSBT said the long-term demand for O negative is mainly being driven by the need to substitute O negative for a rare blood type more common in people of black heritage, called Ro.

Sebastian shows donor Andrew photographs of him as a baby Picture: NHSBTSebastian shows donor Andrew photographs of him as a baby Picture: NHSBT

There is a rise in the number of people with sickle cell disease with Ro blood who need regular blood transfusions.

Mrs Cockerill added: "I don't think people understand how important O negative blood is. Family members of people who are O neg - please go out and get tested."

Mike Stredder, director of blood donation for NHSBT, said: "We need an ever growing share of our blood donors to be O negative to meet hospital demand.

"If you are O negative, please talk to your family and share your story. There's a one in three chance they are O negative too.

"O negative is essential for saving people's lives in emergencies because the red blood cells can be given to almost anyone."

People can register to donate blood today and book an appointment at www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 2323.

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