In the first six months of her life, Zani Tolu almost died twice.
The West Auckland baby has had blood and bone marrow transfusions and received a therapy every fortnight which sees her injected with a plasma-based blood product to boost her immune system.
She was nine weeks premature when she was born in December and most of those treatments came before she was even due.
Mother Malia Tolu was told that made her the only New Zealander to have a bone marrow transplant in the neo-natal unit and the youngest to start receiving the plasma-based drug.
Through all that, Tolu, 35, has learned just how important blood donors are.
As her little girl clings to life, the Herald can reveal that the New Zealand Blood Service is desperate for male donors to stem projected plasma shortages and help save more lives.
With New Zealand's population growing and ageing, another 55,000 blood donors were needed to meet the 8 per cent increase in demand each year, the agency said ahead of World Blood Donor Day on Friday.
And while both male and female donors of all ages would be welcomed with open arms, it was men between the ages of 35 and 55 who were most needed.
Men were usually bigger so could donate more plasma in each session and those between 35 and 55 had usually settled down and were more stable and loyal donors, New Zealand Blood Service chief executive Sam Cliffe said.
"The need for plasma, which can be made into 12 different lifesaving products, is in high demand and typically men can donate more plasma than women due to their blood volume."
But recent research has also begun to suggest a clinical reason for more male donors.
During pregnancy a woman's body created extra antibodies which could in some cases cause transfusion reactions when a man received donated blood, she said.
This meant men's blood was preferred for clinically transfused plasma products -
specifically those used to assist clotting after major surgery or serious accidents, or for trauma patients during cardiac and transplant surgery.
Transfusion reactions could range from a high temperature or spots to acute lung injury. The latter was more likely linked to plasma blood products created from the blood of women who had multiple pregnancies, according to the National Child Cancer Network.
The New Zealand Blood Service implemented measures to reduce those risks, including using male-only donors to make some plasma products and screening female donors for certain antibodies.
A 2017 Netherlands study found that every unit of blood a man received from a woman who had been pregnant raised his chance of dying by 13 per cent.
However, researchers conceded the trial had limitations and that more work was needed to determine whether blood from women who had been pregnant conclusively put men at risk.
Cliffe stressed blood from all donors would save lives.
The organisation already had 110,000 loyal donors on file but needed another 55,000 with 3800 of them becoming plasma-only donors.
Every year it lost about 25,000 donors as people fell off the registry due to reasons such as sickness, travel or tattoos. Whole blood donors could donate 450ml of blood every three months while plasma donors could donate fortnightly because no whole blood was taken.
The amount of plasma needed annually was increasing as medical professionals found ways to use it to treat immunodeficiency and neurological disorders, Cliffe said.
Although there was a demand for all blood types, the service was always in need of people with the O blood types because they could be given to all patients, she said.
In baby Zani's case, scans picked up a hole in her heart. But genetic testing when she was born revealed she also had DiGeorge syndrome, meaning she also had no immune system and was prone to seizures.
Zani was finally discharged from Starship children's hospital in April but scheduled for an operation to fix the hole in her heart next month. "We're just taking it day by day,' Tolu said.
Tolu said she was now counting down the days until she was eligible to give blood.
"It's actually opened up my mind into blood donation. In my culture we were just against it. Your organs, your blood and everything is sacred," she said. "Since my baby's been through it I see the benefit of giving blood."
• To donate visit www.nzblood.co.nz or call 0800 GIVE BLOOD.