THE mother of a brave girl who has received 110 transfusions in her fight against a range of rare illnesses is backing a call for more men to start donating blood.

Helen Sadler, 41, from Highwoods, Colchester, knows all too well how vital supplies of blood are to the NHS.

But new figures reveal a shortfall in the number of men signing up as donors.

Men’s blood is important as it has higher levels of iron, meaning it is often the only option for some transfusions and products.

Helen’s daughter Erin, who is six, has heart, kidney and liver disease, vasculitis, severe hypertension and chronic inflammatory bowel disease.

In April 2017, she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s own immune system to attack and kill one of the components of blood.

Helen said: “She had a mass haemorrhage in June 2017 and received 21 blood transfusions. “In 2018, when her ITP became so severe, she had 56 transfusions in 52 consecutive days.

“One day she had two transfusions of platelets and one of red blood cells.

“Her body was destroying platelets and she was bleeding, so her system was just under attack.

“If it wasn’t for the hospital and the donors she would have bled to death.

“There is no substitute for blood.”

In July last year, Erin suffered a severe lung infection and went into cardiac arrest in her mother’s arms.

She had no pulse for 15 minutes, but her remarkable team at Colchester Hospital’s children’s ward revived her.

Again, blood donors were crucial.

“She had transfusions after her heart attack as well,” said Helen.

“We have met many children in hospital who have a multitude of different conditions which result in them needing so many transfusions.”

Erin is continuing her fight and is constantly closely monitored.

But with a committed team keeping her under close watch and a positive early reaction to the campaign backed by her mother, hope is never far away.

“I got goosebumps when I received a thank you email to say they had 15,000 people register as new donors over three and a half days,” said Helen.

“I’m not saying our campaign was solely responsible for that, but it was encouraging.

“I am really happy that Erin’s story has inspired others.”

During 2019, only 41 per cent of new donors in the East of England were men.

According to NHS guidelines, each time men try to donate blood, they are less likely to be deferred for low haemoglobin levels because of the higher levels of iron in their blood.

Women can also produce antibodies during pregnancy, which can make transfusions more difficult.

Only men’s blood is used for complete blood transfusions in newborn babies, and also for plasma, which is used for patients who have suffered massive blood loss.

NHS Blood and Transplant gets 93 per cent of its platelets from male donors.

Mike Stredder, the head of donor recruitment, said: “All our donors are amazing but we need more men to start donating blood in the East of England during the new year.

“Men’s blood can be used in extraordinary, lifesaving ways, but we don’t have enough new donors coming forward.

“This is not about recruiting as many donors as possible – it’s about getting the right gender mix.”

Helen added: “I do believe Erin has the best in the world when it comes to care.

“But without blood, they would be unable to keep her safe.

“Erin is currently doing really well, we have blips quite regularly but we are ready for them.

“Her kidneys are currently being a bit naughty but her bloods were checked on Thursday and they’ll be checked again today.”