Easy wins: ‘Giving blood, I know I’m directly helping someone. So how good is that?’

·2 min read

A donation that takes 10 minutes can save three lives. There are few ways to spend your time that can have a greater impact


While my short, accident-prone, yes-I’ll-catch-that-disease-inclined body has been the recipient of other people’s blood donations on multiple occasions, due to rarely making the 50kg minimum weight, I usually don’t qualify for donating blood. I’ve never been able to pay it forward.

I like to think my friend Madeleine, of far superior athletic build, is doing it for me by proxy. I’ve known Madeleine for almost 20 years, but only recently found out she is one of the selfless individuals who religiously gives blood and has been for decades.

“I do it because I can … I’m healthy, so why not?” She shrugs. “And I know that I’m directly helping someone. So how good is that?”

Now, more than normal, Australia needs people like Madeleine.

The Red Cross’s Lifeblood program is chalking up a record number of no-shows, with half of the nation’s blood donation appointments going unattended.

“We need 140,000 new blood donors in 2022 to meet the needs of patients across Australia, an increase of 45%,” Lifeblood’s executive director of donor services, Cath Stone, said. “Our existing donors can’t do it alone.”

It takes only 10 minutes to donate the standard 470ml of blood that can save up to three lives.

Related: Easy wins: monthly donations – they feel good and give excellent philanthropic bang for your buck

The Australia Red Cross has an online postcode search for the closest donor centre here and an online eligibility test here.

The eligibility test is advised, given there are more than 360 reasons why someone may not be eligible to donate, relating to individual health conditions, medications, countries recently travelled to, pregnancy and breastfeeding, sexual activities and age.

While becoming one of those donors is relatively straightforward – as long as you’re not afraid of needles – Madeleine takes her commitment to another level.

On her half day off every other Friday, she rides her bike to Sydney Town Hall and donates her plasma too.

The process takes about two hours. Her blood is taken, placed in a centrifuge so the plasma rises to the top for extraction, and then the rest is infused back into Madeleine.

This means she can donate every two weeks, instead of the standard 12 weeks required between conventional blood donations.

For her, it’s just “such a small thing to give up, something I can easily remake myself”.

So make rolling up your sleeve and booking a donation a priority this year, by calling 13 14 95, or downloading the free Donate Blood app. It might not be the easiest thing you do that day, but it will probably be the most impactful.

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