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Opinion: Why I give blood, and why you should too

Donating blood

Blood donors can give red blood cells every three months, and the NZ Blood Service Donor app lets you track when you can donate, and even notifies you when your donation has been used.

Shelley van der Kroght

Shelley van der Kroght, School of Nursing.

By Shelley van der Kroght

There are lots of reasons to donate blood and I’m passionate about encouraging people to give it a go. World Blood Donor Day is this Monday (June 14). If you need any reasons to donate, keep reading - I can give you plenty.

I lecture at Massey University’s School of Nursing in Wellington and I’m a registered nurse. Working in acute settings, oncology, and emergency situations, I have seen how blood and blood products improve patients’ quality of life. Seeing the life quite literally flow back into someone is extraordinary and makes me reflect on the impact every single blood donation can have. There is no substitute for blood, so donating is one way to give that makes a real difference to the health of the most vulnerable in our community.

I am also driven by personal experience: my father needed blood transfusions fortnightly for many months to manage his acute myeloid leukemia. Without these transfusions, he simply would not have survived. He spoke about how he felt before and after the transfusions, and how special it was that other people were helping him to stay well. This experience strengthened my desire to donate blood to oncology patients just like my father.

When someone close to you needs blood to stay alive, you truly realise the value of each and every donation. Every day within hospitals around New Zealand, blood and blood products are in demand, and without a solid supply, patient safety can be compromised.

If you’re worried about needles or discomfort, going in with a team makes all the difference. You can chat and distract each other and meet other donors – it can be fun. At our first group donation, we did the Stuff quiz with other donors. When donating as part of “Team Red”, we also harnessed our competitive side. We took bets on who will have the highest haemoglobin and who can fill their bag first (they time it at the donation centre) so no one can cheat. It dominates our conversation as we sit and rehydrate after donation, and did I mention the cheese and crackers, hot drink and a sneaky Kit Kat or two? Our friendly competition also helps us to encourage others within our workplace to come along in the future and try to take the win – all while making a really meaningful difference to other Kiwis’ lives.

The staff will make the process as painless as possible (I promise) and are extremely empathetic to anyone who is a little nervous. The start to finish time is only around 45 minutes – not a lot to ask for in order to save a life. To make it even easier, by forming a team you can arrange to be picked up and transported to the donation centre or another venue in town taking part in the blood drive.  

You can give red blood cells every three months, and the NZ Blood Service Donor app lets you track when you can donate. This ensures that as a team we are able to give as frequently as we can. The app even notifies you when your donation has been used. It is an awesome feeling to get that notification.  

So, what are you waiting for?

Shelley van der Kroght is a senior tutor at Massey University’s School of Nursing in Wellington, and a registered nurse.