I haven’t been to give blood since about 1999.
I’m rather embarrassed about that. In my defence, after university I kept visiting Africa. Back in the noughties, when you had travelled to such exotic malaria-ridden places, you were required to wait for a year before it was safe to donate. Somehow the years just rolled by.. and then children came along to distract me from my civic responsibility.
I finally went for blood-letting last week.
A blood transfusion was the first thing that happened to Joshua when he arrived at hospital. Leukaemia is a blood cancer and before diagnosis, he was somehow functioning on a ridiculously low number of red cells, which is why he looked incredibly pale and was falling asleep everywhere.
Someone else’s blood put the pink back in his cheeks and gave him energy for bouncing around. In the first six months of treatment, he received four separate transfusions. He also had an infusion of donated platelets, which looked like a bag of orange jelly.
He wouldn’t have made it through chemotherapy, if it wasn’t for the gift of blood. It has played an essential, supportive role in his treatment. There may come a time in the next two years, where he will require another donation.
But it is obviously not just cancer patients who need it.
My sister-in-law Sophie collapsed at home due to a haemorrhage, a few days after the birth of her daughter Evie. She was blue-lighted back into hospital and given pints of blood in theatre. Unfortunately, once you have had a transfer, you are excluded from ever donating. As Sophie says: “this is excruciating; I was so grateful and I want to donate back, because I have a rare blood type. Had I known this before, I would have made more effort to donate, so I could help others.”
But never has donation been more urgent than it is now with the double whammy of the winter flu season and this enduring pandemic.
Unlike in the 1990s, signing up is all online now of course, and actually pretty efficient. I just answered a few basic questions and registered my details. Then it revealed where the multiple local venues are, and I picked a convenient time.
For Sophie and Joshua, someone’s donation has been literally life-saving. The really great bit is, that to be an actual life saver, you don’t need to have superhuman strength, swing off webs or drive the batmobile. All you have to do is lie around for a while and snaffle complementary biscuits (to keep your strength up). Now that’s my kind of wonder-womaning.
Have you signed up to be a sloth superhero..?