Neo: The Lifesaving Blood Type


Donating blood is a practice that I have always taken pride in. The day I learned my blood type was “neo” was a moment that truly made me appreciate the significance of my donations even more. My blood type is B-, which is quite rare, and it holds a special value for the National Health Service (NHS) as it can be used for transfusions in newborns.

During my most recent blood donation appointment, as the donor caretaker was preparing to insert the needle into my arm, she mentioned that it must feel great being a Neo. I was puzzled by her statement until she showed me the bright blue tag that bore the name “Neo.” This tag was placed in the basin to collect my blood bag, signifying that my blood was going to help the tiniest of patients in need.

Neo is a shorthand term for “neonatal,” referring to newborns during the first two weeks of life. It was explained to me that the blood collected from my donation would be used for these fragile newborns who require specialized care.

I had the opportunity to learn more about post-donation blood testing while my blood was being drawn. Dr. Andy Charlton from NHS Blood and Transplant, an expert in haematology and transfusion medicine, provided valuable information about the testing process.

Donated blood undergoes rigorous testing for various diseases such as syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, C, and E. Additionally, some samples require further testing and processing to ensure their suitability for individuals with specific needs. For instance, certain patients may need blood that has been “washed” to prevent severe reactions to transfusion-related proteins.

A crucial aspect of blood testing is screening for cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus that can pose serious risks to newborns, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, and in-utero fetuses. It is essential to identify CMV-free blood donors to minimize the potential risks associated with the virus.

I was relieved to learn that my previous blood donation was free of CMV antibodies, allowing me to contribute to the pool of CMV-negative blood donors. This tag ensured that my blood could be used for patients who needed CMV-free blood products.

It is estimated that only around 2% of the English population is eligible to donate blood due to CMV infection, highlighting the scarcity of CMV-negative donors. As one of the 10,916 living donors in England with CMV-free B-blood, I realized the importance of my contributions in meeting the demand for specialized blood components.

Dr. Charlton emphasized the critical need for specialized blood components and urged the public to donate blood. He praised blood donors as lifesavers, emphasizing that every donation of blood has the potential to save multiple lives.

Hayley Bean’s personal experience further underscored the lifesaving impact of blood donations. A blood transfusion that did not contain CMV played a crucial role in saving her newborn daughter Willow’s life. Willow was born with a potentially fatal condition known as vasa previa, requiring urgent medical intervention.

Hayley vividly recalled the harrowing experience of Willow’s birth, where she needed immediate critical care due to life-threatening bleeding. Thanks to the timely blood transfusion, Willow made a remarkable recovery and is now a healthy four-year-old child.

Reflecting on her daughter’s miraculous survival, Hayley expressed deep gratitude to the anonymous blood donor whose generosity had saved Willow’s life. She acknowledged that Willow’s existence today was made possible by someone’s selfless decision to donate blood.

After receiving the SMS notification that my blood had been allocated to a hospital, I felt a sense of fulfillment and gratitude. Knowing that my blood would be used to help a newborn in need filled me with immense pride. It was a humbling reminder of the impact that a simple act of donating blood can have on someone’s life.

In conclusion, the day I learned my blood type was “neo” was a pivotal moment that deepened my appreciation for blood donation. Being part of a select group of CMV-negative blood donors has made me realize the importance of contributing to the supply of specialized blood products. Every donation of blood is a gift of life that can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need. I am proud to be a blood donor, knowing that my contributions can help save precious lives, especially those of newborns in critical care.