Ron Pattenden has a simple message for those who have donated the blood which keeps him alive every week.

"Thank you very much. There's not a day goes by that I don't put my feet on the floor in the morning and say 'thank God for blood donors'."

The 76-year-old has large lymphocytic leukaemia, a rare blood cancer, and also suffers from anaemia. This means the haemoglobin in his red blood cells is low and his blood struggles to carry a healthy level of oxygen.

Every week he receives a blood transfusion of either one or two units - depending on his level of haemoglobin.

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He started getting transfusions at the beginning of February in 2015. His decreasing oxygen levels meant he was struggling to walk.

"I was gasping in pain at my chest trying to bring in oxygen."

His transfusions started out being every six weeks but have been moved to weekly.

"I'm maintaining a better physical condition. The extra blood is providing me with extra oxygen I wasn't getting."

Mr Pattenden said he can feel himself "draining away" as the week goes on between transfusions.

He also has asbestos disease, kidney failure, diabetes and had his thyroid gland out decades ago. The additional health concerns means the blood he is given is closely monitored.

"They're rather scared of giving me too much blood. My body is absorbing iron in the blood and I'm not using it."

He has had 85 transfusions of red blood cells to date, and as some of those have been two units' worth, he estimates he has around 100 donors to thank.

The O-type blood Mr Pattenden receives is processed all over the country and the donors are anonymous but he and his wife Rosalie are very appreciative.

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"My personal plea is: Everybody out there with healthy blood, please donate. It will always be needed," Mr Pattenden said.

''At least I know I'm going to live to fight another day."

Today is World Blood Donor Day.

As of May 31 this year, there are 2416 active blood donors in Northland - people who has given blood in the past two years.

The number of donors has been decreasing - in 2014 there were 3146 - but this year's figure is up on last year's 2193.

New Zealand Blood Service donor recruitment team leader Scott Sinclair said they needed to keep gaining more donors by acquiring new ones and reinstating old ones as well as maintaining the existing group.

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All up, 112,249 units of blood have been donated nationally in the past year. Each person donates an average of 470ml which is separated into red blood cells, platelets, blood clotting factors, plasma, anti-D, immunoglobin, globulins and several pharmaceutical components.

About 2.75 per cent of the processed blood goes to Whangarei Hospital's blood bank. That works out to about 3086 units of donated blood in the past year.

Am I eligible?
Age:
First-time Donors -16th birthday up to 66th birthday.
Existing Donors - Up to 71st birthday.
Regular donors from 71st to their 76th birthday may be accepted subject to authorisation by a NZBS Medical Officer.

Weight:
You must be 50kg or over (if you are a first-time donor under 25 years of age).

Health:
You must be in good health at the time you donate.
You cannot donate if you have a cold, flu, sore throat, cold sore, stomach bug or any other infection. If you have recently had a tattoo or body piercing you cannot donate for six months from the date of the procedure. If the body piercing was performed by a registered health professional (e.g. a pharmacist, GP etc.) and any inflammation has settled completely, you can donate blood after 12 hours. If you have visited the dentist for a minor procedure you must wait 24 hours before donating; for major work wait a month. It is not advisable to donate blood while breast-feeding. After childbirth, the deferral period is at least nine months and until three months after your baby is significantly weaned.

Travel:
You must not have lived in Britain, France or the Republic of Ireland between 1980 and 1996 for a cumulative six months or more. Travel to areas where mosquito-borne infections are endemic, e.g. malaria, dengue and Zika virus infections, may result in a temporary deferral but this will depend on a number of factors.
Check out www.nzblood.co.nz for more details.

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Where to donate
The next chance for Northlanders to donate blood is in Whangarei next week.
The mobile blood service comes to Whangarei four times a year, for five days at a time. It is in the Forum North Exhibition Hall from Monday to Wednesday and at the Northland Cricket Association on Thursday and Friday.
Mr Sinclair says it is one of the best blood drives they have, and in particular for O negative blood, which can be given to anyone.
Times:
June 19: 12pm - 5pm
June 20: 10am - 4pm
June 21: 12pm - 6pm
June 22: 12pm - 6pm
June 23: 9am-1pm

The mobile service also spends a week visiting the rest of Northland, twice a year. The next collection is in November. The dates are as follows:
November 6: Dargaville
November 7: Kerikeri
November 8: Kerikeri
November 9: Kaitaia
November 10: Kaikohe