Carolyn Beckford-Balogun is a recruitment consultant in our finance and accounts division making placements across all finance roles, at all levels of seniority. But this is not all she does – Carolyn also takes a leading role in furthering Totum’s initiatives around diversity and inclusion (D&I), particularly in supporting career and life opportunities for ethnic minorities.

In particular, Carolyn regularly donates blood to help treat those suffering with sickle cell disorder, who need regular blood transfusions to treat anaemia and other symptoms associated with the disorder. Her ‘Ro Positive’ blood type is highly sought after as it is the blood subtype that ethnically matches those most likely to suffer from sickle cell disease, ie, individuals of African and Caribbean heritage. At present only 2.2% of blood donors have the Ro blood type, however, which means there is a shortage of ethnically-matched blood that sickle cell sufferers need.

Carolyn is keen to raise awareness of the importance for those from black-heritage communities to join her to donate ethnically-matched blood that can be used for the treatment of sickle cell. This is an important reason why Totum this year selected the Sickle Cell Society as one of its chosen charities for 2022/23 – as it seeks to spread awareness of the need for ethnic-minority communities to join the blood donation register and give blood.

Sarah Broad, Totum’s Head of Marketing, talks to Carolyn to find out more about sickle cell and the work of the Sickle Cell Society.

What is Sickle Cell?

It is a genetic condition which affects red blood cells. In Britain, it can affect anyone but is most common in people of African or West Indian (Caribbean) descent. It can cause long term anemia and unpredictable pain causing tiredness and lack of energy. Many young people will have to miss school due to the chronic pain and will have a lower life expectancy. The Sickle Cell Society is the only national charity that supports and represents people affected by Sickle Cell.

Why do you support sickle cell?

Sickle Cell is one of the charities I have supported for some time. I was tested for Sickle Cell in my twenties when I was having an operation as part of their routine checks. I didn’t have it but I know people who have the disorder, including my brother in law who has sickle cell trait. It means they do not have any symptoms of the disease but they can still suffer from what is termed as pain crises, which impact day-to-day life at various periods. Unfortunately, people do not know enough about this disease and it is really debilitating.

Why do you donate blood and give blood for sickle cell?

I didn’t start out thinking I wanted to give blood specifically for those with sickle cell disorder. I was giving blood anyway, but when the NHS Blood Donation found out my blood was Ro positive and only shared by 1 in 13 people, I knew it was vital for me to continue. All blood donation is important but I can see a direct link to those who have sickle cell disorder – I even get informed as to which hospital it has been used at. It makes it very real and is why I wanted to raise awareness and tell people what I do and why do I do it.

What does Totum do to support Sickle Cell Society?

I am really pleased Totum supports Sickle Cell Society as one of our chosen charities as it closely aligns with Totum’s values to do what we can to improve our bit of the world for the better.

Apart from raising awareness about the charity and the importance of blood donation – ‘Give Blood, Spread Love, England’ is the Sickle Cell Society’s blood donation project – we also seek to play our part in raising funds.

As part of our Refer a Friend scheme, for example, Totum donates £50 to one of our chosen charities with every placement we make. Not only does this help raise funds but I’ve found it is a good way to spread the message – as I did just last week when I was speaking to one of my successful candidates. He was choosing the charity to which he wanted to donate his £50, which enabled me to share why Totum and I support the Sickle Cell Society. He had never heard of the charity before but the cause and the message really resonated with him as he shared his own personal story of issues with blood deficiency.

Conversations like this make you realise how important it is to raise awareness of conditions that are often not discussed, leaving many to suffer in silence. I hope we can go on spreading the message about sickle cell disorder, not least because there is a simple thing we can do to enable effective treatment – donate blood.

See our Refer a friend scheme to find out how your recommendations can raise funds for charity. 

Find out more about the Sickle Cell Society and/or about its Blood Donation Project.

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