Bola’s Story

Bola’s Story

Life-saving sickle cell treatment is highlighted in a new video sharing patient story.

Life-saving sickle cell treatment is highlighted in a new video sharing Bola’s Story.

The Sickle Cell Society have collaborated with Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies to highlight a life-saving piece of medical technology for sickle cell and the need for ethnically matched blood.

Three years ago Bola was close to dying, she was in ICU with pneumonia. None of the treatments were working until they tried an exchange blood transfusion.

Presented by Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies this video shares Bola’s story and highlights the importance of access to medical technologies and increasing blood donation.

Bola was first diagnosed with sickle cell at 10 months old and her parents were told she wouldn’t live to see her 11th birthday.  Growing up she experienced many of the symptoms associated with sickle cell, with the hospital becoming her second home.

Sickle cell is an inherited blood disorder. The main symptoms are anaemia and episodes of severe pain. The pain occurs when the cells change shape after oxygen has been released. The red blood cells then stick together, causing blockages in the small blood vessels.

People with sickle cell are at risk of complications of stroke, acute chest syndrome, blindness, bone damage and priapism (a persistent, painful erection of the penis). Over time, people with sickle cell can experience damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs, heart and spleen.

Three years ago Bola was close to dying, she was in ICU with pneumonia. None of the treatment was working until they tried an exchange blood transfusion. With an exchange blood transfusion, hospitals are able to exchange a patient’s red blood cells with donor red blood cells that do not contain the sickle haemoglobin.

After receiving the treatment, Bola saw a massive improvement to her quality of life. Ever since Bola started receiving exchange transfusions, she hasn’t been to hospital, admitted acutely since. She has had more energy, doesn’t get sickle cell crises and is able to spend more time with her family and pursuing her interests.

Bola now receives her blood transfusions via a process called automated red blood exchange, where the transfusion process is carried out by a machine, rather than manually. The use of a machine has many benefits for sickle cell patients like Bola as it makes treatment quicker and easier, reducing time spent receiving the treatment in hospital.

However, exchange blood transfusions rely on ethnically matched blood. Sickle cell can affect anyone, although it predominantly affects people from African and Caribbean backgrounds.

For those like Bola, who rely on regular transfusions, it is essential that they receive blood matched as closely as possible to their own. A match is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity.

 There is an urgent need for more black and mixed race blood donors so that people with sickle cell disorder can be treated with the ethnically matched blood they need. Currently only 1.5% of people who donate blood are of black heritage.

Bola has been a dedicated volunteer for the Sickle Cell Society’s blood donation projects since 2018. She has been campaigning to get more black blood donors to support people living with sickle cell. She took part in the video to “help create a first-hand experience of the life of someone with sickle cell disorder, to raise awareness of the impact of the condition on the friends of family of people with SCD and to raise awareness of the treatment and support that is now available.”

The Sickle Cell Society together with Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies hopes to raise awareness about the need for more black blood donors as well as to promote the need for increased access to exchange transfusions for sickle cell patients across the country.

You can support people like Bola by registering as a potential blood donor here:

About the Sickle Cell Society

The Sickle Cell Society is the only national charity in the UK that supports and represents people affected by a sickle cell disorder to improve their overall quality of life. First set up as a registered charity in 1979, the Sickle Cell Society has been working alongside health care professionals, parents, and people living with sickle cell to raise awareness of the disorder. The Society’s aim is to support those living with sickle cell, empowering them to achieve their full potential.

About Sickle Cell Society’s Blood Donation Awareness Projects

The Sickle Cell Society has been running community engagement projects designed to raise awareness of the need for more black-heritage blood donors since 2018. This work seeks to breakdown some of the barriers that exist to blood donation, explain the life-saving impact donated blood has and register new donors on the blood donation register for England.

Our current blood donation awareness project, Give Blood, Spread Love, England is available to view here:

About Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies

Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies is a medical technology company. Our products, software and services enable customers to collect and prepare blood and cells to help treat challenging diseases and conditions. Our employees around the world believe in the potential of blood and cells to do even more for patients than they do today.

About Connecting the Dots

This video is part of Connecting the Dots, presented by MedTech Europe, an exploratory online video series, illustrating the value of medical technology.

Connecting the Dots highlights some of the most pioneering devices, diagnostic solutions and services that are improving outcomes for patients and transforming entire systems of care. We showcase the work of the innovators, healthcare professionals and organisations fuelling progress by telling stories about the people at the heart of these developments.

Connecting the Dots is available to explore here –