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'You could find love by becoming a blood donor - our parents did'

David and Angela Arnold with their daughters, Emily and Alice, in 1999. (Havas)
David and Angela Arnold with their daughters, Emily and Alice, in 1999. (NHSBT)

Looking for love? Your nearest blood donation centre might just be the place to meet The One - while doing a worthwhile deed.

That’s how David and Angela Arnold, parents to Emily and Alice Arnold, began their love story. In October 1992, David went to donate blood for the first time and laid eyes on Angela, who was a regular donor already.

Emily, 28, tells Yahoo UK: "They were sat next to one another while donating blood and started talking, they really hit it off."

Although David, 59, wanted to get Angela's number, he missed the opportunity to ask for it during the blood donation.

Instead, he came up with a rather novel solution that involved waiting to see her car turn up at a local council office. "He knew she worked at the local council and would go and look for her car wanting to leave a piece of paper with his phone number under her windshield," Alice, 24, says.

"Then one day as he was driving in one direction, he saw her driving in the opposite direction, so he turned around and managed to catch up with her to give her the piece of paper himself.

"They still have that paper to this day!"

David and Angela Arnold on their wedding day in May 1996. (Havas)
David and Angela Arnold on their wedding day in May 1996. (NHSBT)

Because of their parents’ unique love story, Emily and Alice were brought up around them giving blood and understood it as a good thing to do. Both sisters now donate blood regularly, too, and are encouraging young people to do the same.

It comes as NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has revealed that, for the first time in five years, there are more donors over the age of 45 than under. Older people now make up more than half (51%) of regular donors, while the proportion of younger donors has shrunk with only half as many 17 to 24-year-olds giving blood now compared to 2018.

NHSBT is calling for more under-35s to donate blood and has launched the latest phase of its Giving Types recruitment campaign.

Emily and Alice hope the story of how their parents met will convince people that they might just meet the love of their lives at a blood donation centre. The sisters also understand how crucial it is to keep donating, as Angela, 58, had to have a blood transfusion due to a medical condition.

Although Angela is no longer able to donate blood due to a medical condition, David still goes regularly - and so do both their daughters. Emily, who lives closer to their parents in Doncaster, donates together with David and treats the hour they spend giving blood as a catch-up session with him.

(From left to right): Angela, Emily, Alice and David Arnold. The whole family regularly donates blood. (Havas)
(From left to right): Angela, Emily, Alice and David Arnold. The whole family regularly donates blood. (NHSBT)

She says it took her longer to start donating blood because she was initially afraid of needles, but now isn’t fazed by the procedure. She cherishes the time she gets to spend with her father, and loves the staff at the donation centre.

In fact, Emily has convinced her partner and his father to go and donate blood for the first time at her next appointment in March. "It’ll be like a party," she says. "My partner’s dad told me he always thought about it but didn’t have anyone to go with. Now all four of us are going! I think it’s important to have someone to go with, so it doesn’t seem as scary."

Alice started donating blood as soon as she became eligible at 17. She kept going regularly throughout university, and still goes on her own where she lives in Coalville, Leicestershire.

"When I was at university, I would bring it up with my course mates or post about it on Facebook, in hopes people would be curious about it and want to come with me," she tells Yahoo UK. "I have managed to encourage quite a lot of people to start donating blood, it’s just so important."

Reflecting on the low numbers of young blood donors, Alice says she thinks that the fear of the unknown is what stops many people from giving blood. "I think if they knew what happens at the procedure and have someone to go with who is already familiar with it, there would be less fear and worry."

Sisters Emily and Alice Arnold want to encourage young people to start donating blood. (Havas)
Sisters Emily and Alice Arnold want to encourage young people to start donating blood. (NHSBT)

Both sisters say the staff at blood donation centres are friendly and kind, and the atmosphere is often fun and relaxing, with plenty of good music and chats with staff and other donors.

If you have never donated blood before, you must first check your eligibility and register with the NHSBT online, and then you can make an appointment.

On the day of your appointment, Alice explains what happens: "You check in and fill out a form, then sit down and have a drink of water while you wait. Then you'll be called into the consultation room, where they go over your form and check your iron levels using a pinprick blood test to make sure you're healthy to donate.

"Then you sit down and they get you set up with a needle in your arm, and you just wait until they've taken the blood needed. After everything, you get to have a biscuit and a cup of tea before heading off to continue your day!"

Highlighting the importance of donating blood, Dr Jo Farrar, chief executive of NHSBT, said: "Because lifesaving blood only has a short shelf life, we need to constantly collect it and need a steady stream of new donors.

"For the first time in five years, we have more donors who are aged over 45 than under, so it has never been more important for younger people to become lifesavers by giving blood.

"Giving blood feels great. In just one hour you can save up to three lives. Please register and book your first appointment today."