Helping Save a Life

Blood donor Terry O'Connor

Blood donor Terry O'Connor

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has launched its summer campaign urging people to make a special effort to give blood over the coming weeks.

It’s expected that the popularity of the World Cup, which begins this week in Brazil, will have a significant impact on the levels of blood donation throughout the next month.

“By the middle of this week blood supply levels will be down to four days in most blood groups. We need 13,500 donations in June if we are to maintain the blood supply and avoid shortages – that’s an extra 400 people a week compared to last month coming into our clinics,” explained Paddy Bowler, IBTS Director of Operations.

“This is a World Cup year and traditionally big international sports events have an impact on attendance at donation clinics. June is also the beginning of the summer holiday period which usually presents difficulties in sustaining the blood supply as donations decline,” he added.

In any given week, the IBTS needs to collect 3,000 donations.

The IBTS aims to hold a seven day supply of blood at any given time.

A car accident victim may require up to 30 units of blood, so each blood donation certainly contributes to helping save somebody’s life. “Blood lasts just 35 days and platelets five days, so we need people constantly coming to our clinics to maintain a consistent supply,” said Mr Bowler.

“Patients do not go on holidays so we are asking those donors who can, to give the gift of life to those patients. Do not leave it to someone else this summer and please make a special effort to give blood over the coming weeks.”

Just three per cent of the eligible population donate blood. Almost 50 per cent of the population are O positive.

Just eight per cent are O negative but this blood groups represents 14 per cent of all blood used.

One local blood donor, who has received the prestigious ‘gold drop’ in recognition of his many donations, is Terry O’Connor from Lismore Lawn.

Terry first donated in the 1970s and believes all blood donors provide a very important service.

“There are so many people looking for blood because of accidents or operations. It’s a small thing to do. It only takes an hour at the most. You get into a routine of doing it and you make the time to do it,” he explained.

“People can be apprehensive because of the needles but you only feel a little prick and it’s over in 20 minutes. You’ll always meet so many people to talk to so it’s a social thing. Sometimes I meet people I mightn’t have seen with ages.”

Clinics are held in different locations every three months.

On average, donors give blood 1.6 times a year but they may be able to donate up to four times a year.

Locally, clinics are held for between three to four days every three months or so in The Tower Hotel; Kingfi sher Club, Tramore Road; the Woodlands Hotel, Dunmore Road; Lawlor’s Hotel, Dungarvan; and Holy Cross National School, Tramore.

Donors receive letters and text messages informing them of upcoming clinics in their area.

There are a number of factors which may prevent potential donors from donating, a full list of which can be found on the IBTS website (www.giveblood.ie).

A simple Q&A can be completed on the website to determine if you are eligible to donate blood.

“The testing is rigorous,” said Terry.

“Recently I was refused for the first time ever as my iron levels were too low. I was shocked as that day was the first time ever that I was refused. Unless everything is spot on they won’t take the blood, and rightly so.”

Donors are recognised for their commitment by being presented with specific awards from the IBTS: a silver award for 10 donations; gold award for 20 donations; gold drop for 50 donations and presentation at an awards dinner ceremony; and a porcelain pelican for 100 donations and presentation at an awards dinner ceremony. Terry received his gold drop for 50 donations at a recent ceremony in Carlow.

“I didn’t realise it was such a big thing. People were called up from all the different counties and a presentation was made to each donor,” explained Terry.

He plans to continue to donate for as long as he can and is encouraging everyone else to consider donating blood also.

“Just go out and do it. After you do it once, it’s no bother after that,” he said.

World Blood Donor day takes place this Saturday June 14th, which is a worldwide campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of blood donation.

For more information on donating blood visit www.giveblood.ie or call 1850 731 137.

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