World Blood Donor Day

By · 14 June, 2017 · Features

Facilitator, donor, and daughter of a recipient Kate Turner reflects on the importance of giving blood and why your next milkshake could be a matter of life and death.

When I was sixteen, I donated blood for the first time. I wasn’t hugely nervous – a few of my friends had been before, and our school had encouraged it at assemblies and in homeroom. I remember it felt like a hospital, with the same clinical, professional feeling that both made me nervous and put me at ease. I was asked more questions about my health than ever before, weighed and measured and given a sticker to let people know it was my first time donating. I’ve never had an issue with needles, and this one hurt less than a flu shot, so when I was done in five minutes or so I was pleasantly surprised. I was offered an excellent milkshake and warm sausage rolls, and I was able to go home after donating a pint or so of blood and an hour of my day.

They tell you that each donation you make can save three lives, and as lovely as it is, you don’t really think about the actual impact it has. For me, they were three people I didn’t know, three people who could have had any number of things happen that they needed extra blood. Three people who are, at the end of the day, complete strangers. I donated because both my parents lived overseas for a few years and they’re ineligible now, and I knew it was just something good to do to help other people. I’ve got a pretty common blood type which people will always need more of, and those few reasons were the extent of how much I thought about it.

It was three years later, almost to the day, that my father needed a blood transfusion. He had a long, complex surgery that was broadly successful, but he lost enough blood that every time he sat up, he fainted. When I visited him later in the hospital, he was as white as the wall, almost too tired to eat dinner or watch a film. Over the next few days he got stronger, could move around the ward without much of a wobble, and was even able to get to the end of an episode of Mad Men. The blood products he received were monumentally helpful, and while it took him a while to get back to work, he’s back to being a reasonably fit, healthy man who you might not otherwise know was very unwell.

You never get to know those people who you help, and vice-versa, I’ll never know the people who donated the blood that helped my Dad. It really hit home to me that those three lives they tell you about are people that are someone’s family, someone’s mother or father, their sibling, their partner. Of course, you’ll always be somewhat aware that you’re helping someone, but for me, it became very real, very quickly. Our family is forever grateful that people donate their time and their blood for nothing more than a sausage roll and a milkshake, and we are so, so thankful for the work that the Australian Red Cross Blood Service does.

Learn more about donation blood or make an appointment to donate here.

Learn more about World Blood Donor Day here, and read the resolution that established it.

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