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Blood donations have come a long way in the last 50 years. Veteran blood donor Carol reflects on over half a century of donating.
A blunt needle, blood collected in glass jars and a nip of whisky to finish; it sounds like the setting for a horror movie, not a blood donation.
That was the reality for blood donors in 1965, long before New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) as we now know it was founded in 1998.
Flashback to the mid-60s, having recently emigrated from England, Carol completed her first blood donation when she was working at the Post Office in Wellington. Working for a government department meant she was given time off to donate blood and her team would regularly head off to the hospital to donate together.
“The donations were collected in big glass jars back then and they didn’t have disposable needles. Everything was sterilised, but they would just sharpen the needle and use it again,” Carol says.
“So, I always prayed I would get a new needle and not an old blunt one!”
Carol had it easier than her male colleagues though. At the time a larger needle was used for men than for woman.
“The worst part for me at the time was the finger prick,” Carol says, recalling the finger prick test for iron, taken before each donation.
“Nowadays it is relatively painless but at the time they used a pointed scalpel blade and it was really painful.”
Looking back it might seem primitive when compared to the amazing facilities at NZBS donor centres and mobile blood drives today. But Carol says it was all worthwhile to help people.
Today when you donate blood with NZBS you are greeted in a modern donation centre or mobile blood drive. There is a comfortable chair and smiling nurses waiting to greet you, which Carol says makes all the difference.
The finger prick test is much more donor friendly now and a single use, sterile needle is used to collect your blood in a sterile bag. There might be slight discomfort when the needle goes in, but nothing like what Carol remembers from the early days. You can be assured collection bags and needles are never reused, and the only glass jars we have now are the ones used to store the biscuits.
For all the changes, the one thing that has remained consistent through the years is the promise of a chocolate biscuit and a cup of tea after every donation. The refreshments available while donors recover after their donation are a rare indulgence Carol looks forward to.
Now living in Napier, Carol continues to donate whole blood when the mobile blood drive comes to town. In her over 51 years as a donor she has made 28 donations.
“Go ahead and do it” she says. “You never know when you might need blood yourself.”
To find out more about how to become a blood donor like Carol, visit www.nzblood.co.nz or call 0800 GIVE BLOOD.
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