A Gift of Blood, A Gift of Life: The Rupert Ellis Story


picture of Rupert Ellis with Blood Appeal account details

Cancer survivor, Rupert Ellis

A unit of blood can help someone survive life-threatening illnesses and accidents. Rupert Ellis, 62,  of Hellshire Park in Portmore, St Catherine is one example of a cancer survivor and blood recipient who is saying thanks to his blood donors this evening.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) in 2015, long time Hellshire resident and founding elder of Hellshire Seventh Day Adventist Church has been fighting cancer that destroys his vital red blood cells (these are the cells that make blood in the body) and bone marrow. This condition landed him hard in the hospital preceding his diagnosis and has since caused his blood count to fluctuate to dangerous levels.

Recounting his story to Portmore Citizens News recently,  Mr. Ellis recalled that during his hospital stay,  his doctor’s diagnosis made the future look grim. It appeared that the spectre of death loomed over him, he reminisced.

Fighting Back 

However, with the donations of kind blood donors, a resilient faith in God, and an indomitable and cheerful spirit, he and his doctor fought valiantly to increase his blood count.

His health rallied and he was able to regain his strength and an active lifestyle.
So much so that in September 2016, his doctors felt it was safe enough to cut back on his treatment.

However, while there were some improvements, he noted that the side effects were less than healthy. Eventually, he discontinued some of his treatment.

Then the tables turned. At a subsequent visit, he learnt that this decision had not produced the results hoped for and had sent his blood count into a downward spiral (falling below 5). This renewed his struggle with his cancer. Deeply discouraged, he told me during a visit with him late in December, “I got down on my knees at my bedside and cried tears to God.”

To make things worse, his doctor was coming up short in her search to find O Negative blood for him. Things looked hopeless. He had donors but none were O Negative blood donations.

A Campaign to find the Missing Type

It was Mr. Ellis’ story and current situation that inspired my creation of the O Negative Blood Donation Network Facebook Group on December 26, 2016. The intent was to create a campaign that would launch an Appeal for more O Negative blood donations, not only for Mr. Ellis but others facing a similar crisis.



The main aim of the Group is to provide and build a community for persons with O Negative blood. Posts will increase awareness about blood types. Hopefully, we will be able to match needs to donors, inform more people about blood donors eligibility, the blood collection process. Members will be kept abreast of voluntary donation opportunities like blood collection drives, weekly local and national blood bank reserves data. We also hope to convert non-donors into first-time blood donors, and one -time donors into repeat donors.

By sharing receivers’ stories, it is hoped that the Campaign will persuade the public that blood donation requires a personal commitment that starts with each person signing up as a volunteer and life saver. The mission is to increase blood donations of this universal O Negative resource at the community and neighbourhood levels inside and outside of Portmore and provide inspiration and support for those who are ill and need blood donations.

Blood donor prospects and members can sign up to donate using a form posted in the Facebook Group’s Files. This information will be collated and passed on to the relevant collection centres or Drive organizer identified by prospects.

The initiative will be adopted and promoted as a grassroots cause by Portmore Citizen’s News published by blogger and Group administrator, Karen Taylor.

Transfusions Bring Improvement 

In the last month, Mr. Ellis has had approximately two transfusions from blood received from the hospital’s blood stocks and friends. The scramble to find more for him continues at the hospital level.

Speaking with him this afternoon, Mr. Ellis reported positive news and steady progress following these gifts of blood. His blood count has been inching up and now stands at seven, he reported. To help his body halt his receding bone marrow, he needs to maintain a blood count level of 14.

Expensive New Treatment to cost $130,000 Monthly

He also shared plans by his doctor to start another intervention which, if successful, could help put his cancer into recession. This will, however, cost $J130,000 per month, an expense he says one of his daughters has made a commitment to underwrite. He is especially grateful for a discount offered by the treatment provider to make two of the injections available free of cost when two purchases are made. He will require this dosage monthly.

Until this treatment begins to rebuild his body’s ability to fight on its own, Mr. Ellis will need your gift of O negative blood. Blood donations of this type can be made to his account at the blood Collection centre at the UWI Hospital, Mona.

So What If I’m not an O -Type?

If you are not O Negative, but have another blood type, you can still donate to his account, but ensure you ask for a receipt from the collection drive staff or centre where you are donating. You can then send him the receipt so the Blood Bank at the Hospital can do an exchange when he needs a transfusion.

The collection of this receipt with his name on it is crucial for him to benefit from your gift to him. To send him the receipt, make contact by sending a message to Mr. Ellis or me via this blog’s contact form page or the Facebook Group so arrangements can be made to receive the receipt.



Blood is a gift of life. All around Jamaica every day and even at this very second, are people like Mr. Ellis needing a blood donation;  people in accidents, mothers in labour wards, babies who need a unit to save their lives. Help save someone’s life today with a donation of your blood.

Have you given before? Consider making a repeat donation by joining the Facebook Group and using the membership form and sign up forms found in Group Files to make your commitment of blood.

Are you a first timer? Learn more about the process by following this blog. Don’t know your blood type? You could learn what that is by participating in an upcoming blood drive or stopping by a Collection Centre.

Set aside time to donate today. Save the date to save lives, receive your own account, and pay it forward. Join us. Open a Neighbourhood Blood Bank in your community. Make Blood reserves for your family, friends, and neighbours when they need it.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2017. Karen Taylor



20 Reasons the Blood Bank Rejected Your Blood Donation


Blood is a priceless commodity that cannot be manufactured or reproduced. It can only be given by charitable persons. It is easy to give blood and this blog strongly encourages those who can to consider making a donation.

Blood donations are critical in the care of cancer patients like my friend Rupert Ellis whose search for O negative blood donations has inspired me to write this post. His case highlights the critical shortage in the national blood bank reserves that is causing a health crisis for Mr Ellis and countless other Jamaicans who are battling for their lives.

A blood gift can save the life of your own child, sibling, spouse, parent or friend.
However, according to the Blood Bank, because of common misperceptions and lack of understanding about pre- donor requirements, many potential donors who register either do not show up because of miseducation about the eligibility criteria and many who show are turned away from making a donation because they are ineligible.

Every time a potential donor is turned away or deferred, it reduces the survival rate for a critical care patient waiting to receive that blood. For rare blood type patients like those with O-negative blood, it can be a matter of life and death.

In this post, I’ve compiled a checklist of 20 of the most common reasons the Blood Bank rejected your blood donation. If you attempted to give blood and were told “No Thanks,” this information should help you understand the causes and help you make healthier decisions to improve your eligibility in the future.

Basic Criteria

Let me first establish that most donations will be deferred if you have a health condition that could put you or the receiver at risk. Blood banks also have set up basic criteria that will help them determine anyone’s eligibility to participate in the blood donation process. The following is specific to Jamaica.

To give blood in Jamaica and in most countries in North America, you MUST

  • be in good general health and feel well
  • be between 17 and 60 years old
  • weigh at least 110 lbs.
  • present a National Identification

15 Health-Related Issues that May Disqualify Your Blood Donation

The American Red Cross Association has outlined 15 health-related issues which may cause your blood donation to be disqualified. In most cases, you can usually make a second attempt to donate after a specific period has passed, usually a 12- month deferral. To read the full list of eligibility criteria and deferral timelines for blood donations, visit the American Red Cross. For local information, head to the National Blood Transfusion Service (Jamaica) website.

You may NOT be eligible to give blood if you have any of these health conditions:

#1. You are anaemic

Anaemia is a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells in your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anemia worldwide.

Iron deficiency anemia is caused by a shortage of iron in your body. Your bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin. Without adequate iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells.

To prevent anaemia, make sure you pay attention to eating well, especially foods rich in iron before you attempt to donate blood.

#2. You are on Antibiotics

Are you taking antibiotics for an acute infection? According to the American Red Cross, “The reason for antibiotic use must be evaluated to determine if the donor has a bacterial infection that could be transmissible by blood. Donations can be accepted if you have finished oral antibiotics for an infection (bacterial or viral) even if you may have taken the last pill on the date of donation. Antibiotic by injection for infection is acceptable 10 days after the last injection.”

A blood donation may be acceptable if you are taking antibiotics to prevent infection for the following reasons: acne, chronic prostatitis, peptic ulcer disease, periodontal disease, pre-dental work, rosacea, ulcerative colitis, after splenectomy or valvular heart disease, the Association has noted.

#3. You Have a High Fever

If you have a temperature above 99.5 F, you may not donate.

#4. You are Pregnant

If you are pregnant, wait six weeks after giving birth.

#5. You Have AIDS/HIV

Don’t attempt to donate blood if you have AIDS or have ever tested HIV Positive.

#6. You Bleed

Do you have a bleeding condition where your blood does not clot normally? You may have excessive bleeding where the needle is placed. You cannot donate blood if you have this condition.

For the same reason, you should not donate if you are taking any “blood thinners” whatsoever. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Arixtra (fondaparinux)
  • Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Eliquis (apixaban)
  • Fragmin (dalteparin)
  • Heparin
  • Jantoven (warfarin)
  • Lovenox (enoxaparin)
  • Pradaxa (dabigatran)
  • Savaysa (edoxaban)
  • Warfilone (warfarin)
  • Xarelto (rivaroxaban)

#7. You Have High Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure is at or above 180 systolic (first number) and at or above 100 diastolic (second number) at the time of donation, defer blood donation to another time when you have your blood pressure under control.

#8. You Have Received Blood Recently

If you’ve received a blood transfusion in ….less than 12 months, you should not donate blood.

#9. You Have Certain Cancers

Eligibility depends on the type of cancer and treatment history. If you had leukemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s Disease and other cancers of the blood, you are not eligible to donate. Other types of cancer are acceptable if cancer has been treated successfully if it has been more than 12 months since treatment was completed and there has been no cancer recurrence in this time.

Lower risk in-situ cancers including squamous or basal cell cancers of the skin that have been completely removed do not require a 12 month waiting period.

#10. You Have the Cold/Flu

Postpone donation of blood if you have the cold or flu symptoms.

#11. You Have Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

If you ever received a dura mater (brain covering) transplant or human pituitary growth hormone, you are not eligible to donate. Those who have a blood relative who had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are also not eligible to donate. Learn more about Creutzfeldt Jakob-Disease.

#12. You’ve had an Organ Transplant

Have you had an organ or tissue transplant with the last year? Sorry, you’ll have to try again later.

#13. You Have Body Piercings

If you have body piercings (ears, body) which were performed using a reusable gun or any reusable instrument, you may not be eligible for blood donations.

#14. You Have Certain Untreated STDs

If you have syphilis or gonorrhea which you have not been treated or have not completed all treatment, you may have to wait until you have confirmed you are free of these ailments.

#15. You were exposed to the Zika Virus

If you have been exposed to the Zika Virus, your donation will not be accepted.

Other Lifestyle-related reasons

Health conditions are not the only causes they may tell you ‘No thanks’. Your lifestyle can be a big mitigating factor in blood donations too. Here are two.

#16. You are Tattooed

Before you get that tatoo, stop and read this.

Blood Collection Centres will not be able to accept blood from you if you have a tattoo.

#17. You are a Smoker

Smoking can be harmful to your health in more ways than one. In case you didn’t know it eliminates your participation in any blood donation drives.

#18. You Don’t Meet the Basic Criteria

I started the post mentioning the four criteria to give blood (in Jamaica. From the 17 health reasons outlined above, you should have already concluded that your state of health and wellbeing will be scrutinized. Additionally, if you do not meet the expected age, weight and ID requirements, you will be unable to proceed with your donation. Here they are again:

  • Unable to provide a National Identification Card
  • Under 17 years old
  • Weigh Less than 110 pounds

#19. You just don’t feel well

I’ve outlined all the conditions above that point to poor health. But it requires emphasising here that well-being on the day you plan to donate may very well foil your plans to donate. Are you feeling unwell? Then consider waiting until you feel better before making that important visit.

#20. Misconception about Diabetics

Finally, existing misconceptions by themselves are a common reason for blood donors to eliminate themselves from the blood donation exercises. According to the Blood Bank, you should be mindful of a common misperception that persons who are either hypertensive or diabetic (non-dependent on insulin) are not allowed to donate blood. This is not the case and, even if you take oral medication, in many cases you are still eligible for blood donation. 

So, there you have it: 20 reasons your blood donation may be rejected at the Blood Bank.

So, what’s next?

Do not be deterred from giving blood if your rejection is ailment is one that poses a temporary delay and that you can do something about. Once you’re recovered, please go out and give that lifeblood.

For those of you who are in good health and eligible to give this vital resource (and especially if you have one of those rare blood types) then take some time to visit your nearest blood intake centre or Blood bank and make your deposit. It is free and you’ll be saving lives, including yours or that of a loved in the future. Donate. Donate. And donate again.

Your Turn

Which of the 17 conditions surprised you the most or cleared up a long-held misconception that prevented you or someone you know from donating blood in the past? Share it in the Comments below.