‘Major success’ - Pio Terei hails Māori blood drive turnout

By Will Trafford

"I’m just a singer with a guitar but Māui used a fishhook from his grandmother's jaw-bone. If that isn’t organ donation, then what is?"

Singer, comedian and TV host Pio Terei says a blood drive organised by his son’s charity, Trust Teina, over the weekend was a "major success" in recruiting Māori and Pasifika donors.

The Waikato blood drive processed some 85 people. "These numbers may not sound big but to NZ Blood they are huge," Terei told Te Ao Māori News. "It went off, even in the rain."

‘Trust Teina’ was set up by Pio’s 17-year-old son, Teina, who died from acute myeloid leukaemia in 2017.

The Māori Television host praised his son's legacy for the ‘biggest [blood] contribution from Māori ever." "He’s driving this," Terei said.

Blood and bone marrow donors

Fifty of the weekend’s participants were first-time donors, while 16 people registered as bone marrow donors.

Bone marrow transplants are crucial for leukaemia patients who have undertaken radio and chemotherapy.

While the global bone marrow registry is in the several millions, there is between just 6,000 and 10,000 donors for Māori and Pasifika.

Pio said past blood drives may not have been conducive to Māori.

"We created an environment based on good information where people felt physically and culturally safe. There was good kai, there was music, there was laughter. We made it more Māori and Māori turned up," Terei said.

Trust Teina worked with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and NZ Blood for the weekend’s event.

 "We couldn’t do it without the New Zealand Blood Services and the Wānanga sitting around the table." he added. 

Misinformation and caretakers of tikanga

Terei (who donated) cautioned there was misunderstanding about what bone marrow donation involves "They’re not going to drill your arm, they take it out of your blood. A lot of our whānau don’t know about this.” he told Breakfast.

NZ Blood encourages karakia prior to donating blood. "I really respect that... We need to have caretakers of tikanga." the 63-year-old said, on the notion that blood is Tapu.

Terei says the charity’s board will meet to discuss additional drives across the motu on Thursday.

"Ōtautahi have been singing out for one, Rotorua has been singing out for one and the far north has been singing out for one. We hope to do four a year," Terei said.

Terei noted whānau can donate "throughout the year", adding the charity would continue to create a "warm, positive space" for people of all ethnicities, to become donors.