Giving blood really can make the difference between life and death. SAM PHILLPOTT talks to one woman whose family history has led her to donate a valuable pint or two...

It may be just another advertisement on television, but giving blood really does save lives every single day.

One woman who knows this better than most is 27-year-old Alexandra Bickerstaff from Bell View Road in Eastleigh.

She has given blood an incredible 11 times and for her the motivation is personal.

For Alexandra's mum has needed a blood transfusion three times.

Once when she gave birth and twice when she had cancer.

Her father also needed blood when he was serving in the Korean War.

The mum-of-two said: "I just feel

giving blood is so simple and painless.

"I also feel with both my mum and dad needing blood, it's my duty to give."You never know when you might need blood.

"More importantly you never know when your family might need it."

The Southampton Centre of the National Blood Service is only one of 15 in the country.

It is responsible for collecting blood for Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Dorset and South Wiltshire.

Based at Coxford Road, the unit has six teams of 20 medics, who tour the region all year round collecting blood.

They also have the blood mobile - an eight-bed bus which also travels the area.

With only four to five days worth of stock at the Southampton Centre, staff can never rest on their laurels when it comes to collecting supplies.

They need to collect 650 units every day.

Annabel Bruxner-Randall from the blood service said: "We can never be complacent about the blood stocks that we hav,e as we never know what

eventuality is around the corner.

"With only six per cent of the

population giving blood, it's a case of a minority supplying for the majority.

Stocks run tradionally low at Christmas, over the spring bank

holiday and in the summer months.

"But hospitals don't stop, they are open 365 days a year," added Annabel.

Giving blood could not be simpler.

A donor lies on a bed, and about three-quarters of a pint of blood is then taken from an arm.

This amount is called a unit of blood.

For those of you who are squeamish, you will be pleased to know the bag remains out of site - below the bed.

After a short restn all donors are given the famous cup of tea and


Just about anybody can give blood, but there are a few exceptions.

A medical screening beforehand and a quick test of blood from your

finger will tell the medics all they need to know.

The whole process takes about an hour and people can give blood three times a year.

Alexandra added: "Everyone is so friendly, it's a pleasant experience and you leave with that feel-good factor.

"I'm bringing my boyfriend down tonight, so he can donate some too."

* To become a donor, simply call into your local session by calling 0845 7711 711, look on ceefax BBC2 page 465 or