The parents of a young girl who died as a result of a rare blood disorder are stressing the importance of donating blood in her memory.

Holly Gormley, from Strabane, Co Tyrone, died aged 11 in July. Her mother, Claire, described her daughter’s condition, aplastic anemia, as affecting her immune system.

Over the course of her life, she received countless blood and platelet transfusions from generous strangers across Northern Ireland.

As Holly’s family celebrate her “heavenly birthday” on Tuesday, December 5, they are working with the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) to raise awareness and encourage everyone to donate blood or platelets.

Northern Ireland needs 1,200 blood donors every week, roughly one every eight minutes.

“Aplastic anemia means your bone marrow doesn’t work, so Holly had no immune system at all. “She was susceptible to any infection and those infections were potentially fatal for Holly,” Ms Gormley said.

Holly’s father Gareth said the family were “completely unaware” of the extent of blood donation.

Ms Gormley added: “Gareth and I both saw it first-hand when we went to the Royal (Belfast Hospital for Sick Children) and the hematology department where there were sick children and the amount of blood products needed there is unbelievable .” , even for children with cancer. We saw a whole different world up there.”

Holly’s aunt Geraldine Robinson, herself a blood donor, described how the vivacious St Catherine’s primary school pupil relied on blood and platelet donations needed to give Holly the strength to undergo chemotherapy and AGT therapy before a bone marrow transplant.

The girl’s family and friends have also been tireless in their efforts to raise awareness and funds for the Anthony Nolan Trust and the hematology and oncology departments at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. The family is currently raising money for the hospital by selling badges.

In October, Holly’s family, friends and the local community attended the Strabane blood drive in Holly’s memory.

A total of 117 blood donations were collected and with each donation estimated to save or improve three lives, this session is likely to have saved the lives of over 350 people in Northern Ireland.

Now, with the help of Holy Cross College, the family want to build on this record-breaking success by holding additional blood donation sessions each year in memory of Holly, who leaves a truly life-saving legacy. Mr Gormley said donating blood or platelets was a practical way to help people in need.

Holly's mother Claire Gormley, uncle Mark Kelly and aunt Geraldine Robinson in the bloodmobile
Holly’s mother Claire Gormley, uncle Mark Kelly and aunt Geraldine Robinson in the bloodmobile

“People want to find a way to help: ‘Donate blood, save lives’ says it all. We just want people to come out and donate blood. It is the only thing that everyone has, and it is the only thing that everyone can give for free.”

Ms Gormley added: “Don’t be afraid to come along and donate blood. “It’s so easy, painless and free. You feel great afterwards because you know you did something good. We have seen first hand what it does and how much it is needed.”

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Barbara Mullin, head of supply chain and testing services at NIBTS, thanked the family for their efforts and reiterated their appeal.

“On behalf of all recipients of blood and platelet donations, our volunteers and staff, we would like to say a huge thank you to the Gormley family for their remarkable generosity and dedicated support of blood donation,” she said.

“We join the Gormley family in encouraging everyone to become a blood or platelet donor. If you are inspired by Holly’s life-saving legacy, please contact us on social media or search for Give Blood NI to join us as a blood or platelet donor.”