Falkirk brothers’ blood donations have helped up to 750 people in Scotland

Blood donors are being invited to donate fresh supplies at the Dobbie Hall in Larbert next week.

By Julie Currie
Friday, 19th July 2019, 12:46 pm
Blood brothers...Andrew and Steven Millar have been giving blood since they were 17, donating more than 250 pints over the years. (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Blood brothers...Andrew and Steven Millar have been giving blood since they were 17, donating more than 250 pints over the years. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

It is hoped at least 300 people will donate, among them new blood.

To prove how easy it is, we met up with two generous Falkirk brothers at a session in the Town Hall on Monday.

Andrew and Steven Millar have donated more than 250 pints of blood between them.

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There's nothing to fear...Andrew gave his 131st donation at Falkirk Town Hall on Monday, where we also met up with his brother Steven and and senior charge nurse Suzanne Milliken. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

They were rewarded for their service last November when they were invited to a ceremony to celebrate each donating 125 pints.

The youngest of seven brothers, the former Bothkennar Primary and Larbert High pupils each started giving blood when they were just 17 years of age – and haven’t stopped since.

Over the years, they’ve inspired many others to give blood and are proof positive that there’s nothing to be scared of.

Andrew (57), who is B negative, gave his 131st pint on Monday afternoon.

He was inspired to give blood after a family friend had an accident and required several transfusions.

Andrew said: “A family friend, who was a regular donor, took me along to my first session. I remember being a wee bit nervous but I had nothing to worry about.

“I’ve been giving blood three times a year since – today’s donation was my 131st.

“I’ve been lucky as I’m in good health and have been able to donate every time.

“I actually think it’s been keeping me healthy! The next target is my 150th pint.”

But Andrew better watch out as his wee brother is now donating four times a year in Glasgow, compared to his three donations in Falkirk.

“I’m going to go through to Glasgow too – I’m not letting him overtake me,” he joked.

Andrew, who lives in Falkirk and is an area sales manager for Amazone, hasn’t been able to convince his wife Jane or their children Derek and Claire to donate, and his grandchildren – Kyle (14), Ciara (10) and Erin (6) – are still too young, but he has inspired others.

He added: “People have often asked me about giving blood and I’ve told them a wee bit about it. Quite a few of them have gone on to give blood regularly.

“Chances are I’ve saved one or two lives over the years, just by donating blood.

“It’s not hard to do – I keep coming back so it can’t be that bad – and it’s really rewarding too.

“At the ceremony last year, people explained how blood donors had helped them.

“It was very emotional and brought a tear to your eye listening to them.

“It really gave us a chance to see what a difference blood donors can make.

“It was the first time two brothers in Scotland had each reached 125 donations so it was special to receive the award with Steven.

“Maybe in a few years the Herald will be reporting on us reaching the 150th!”

I certainly wouldn’t bet against them as Steven (54), who is O negative, is just as dedicated as his big brother. He too was 17 when he first became a blood donor.

The IT manager with Portal Technologies in Larbert lives in Falkirk but travels a lot so finds it easier to donate in Glasgow.

He said: “We grew up on a farm just outside Skinflats and all of my brothers gave blood so, when I was old enough, I went along too.

“The staff are always very understanding and talk new donors through the process.

“Back then, you used to get a local anaesthetic but now it’s just a wee scratch.

“It’s a little enough thing for someone like me to do but it can make such a difference to people’s lives.

“My wife Fiona is a nurse so I’m all too aware that you never know when you might need blood yourself.”

The couple have four children – Bronwyn (24), Morven (22), Phoebe (20) and Callum (19). The oldest two have already followed proudly in dad’s footsteps.

He added: “If you’re fit and healthy, I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to do it.

“It certainly spurred me on hearing some of the personal stories last year.

“One man said if it hadn’t been for people like us, he wouldn’t be here.”

With some donors dropping out after visiting exotic locations or suffering ill health, Edward Ford, the head of donor services in the west, hopes to find new blood next week.

He added: “I’d like to thank Andrew and Steven for demonstrating how easy it is to become a life saver.

“As they have each given 125 donations, and each donation can be split into three parts, they have saved or improved the lives of up to 750 people in Scotland. It is an amazing achievement.”

New donors warmly welcomed

It’s been a busy few days for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, with 354 people attending sessions last Thursday in Denny and on Monday and Tuesday at Falkirk Town Hall.

With only three per cent of the population registered as blood donors, the summer holidays are a busy time for SNBTS – ensuring there are enough blood supplies to feed Scotland’s hospitals.

Some 44 per cent of all blood supplies in Scotland come from the West of Scotland patch Falkirk is in, so the team visit the area many times each year.

In Falkirk, donors are invited along three times a year, over the course of two days, while sessions are also held in Bainsford, Hallglen, Grangemouth, Brightons, Bonnybridge and Denny.

It is hoped 300 people will go along to the Larbert sessions, including new blood.

They will be held in the Dobbie Hall on Monday, July 22, from 2pm to 3.30pm and 5pm to 7.30pm and on Tuesday, July 23, from 4pm to 7.30pm.

People attending for the first time, or those who have not given for more than two years, must be seen by a nurse first.

Senior charge nurse Suzanne Milliken explained the process.

She said: “We have a duty of care to donors, patients and blood supplies so new donors will always be seen by a nurse.

“Like everyone else, we’ll then check their haemoglobin with a small finger prick before they can make their donation.”

Anyone aged 17 and over and in good health can donate but girls aged 20 and under must provide their height and weight.

It’s also imperative to know if your blood is actually needed.

Suzanne added: “We need the right blood group, in the right amount, at the right time.”

To check if your blood group is required next week, visit www.scotblood.co.uk.