An opportunity to skip class creates life-long donor

It was just a normal school day for sixteen year-old Ben, when the New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) mobile blood drive visited Hamilton Boys’ High School. The year was 2001 and the sixth-form student jumped at the chance to get out of class for an hour to complete his first whole blood donation. Fast forward nearly fifteen years and Ben has just completed his 160th donation.

“After that first donation at school, I just kept going” says 31-year-old Ben, who is modest about the amount of donations he has achieved. “It’s my good deed for the day, and I like knowing that I am helping people.” In fact since 2001, Ben’s donations have had the potential to save up to 450 lives.

After several years as a whole blood donor, Ben was having a chat with one of the nurses at his local Hamilton blood donor centre and discovered he was a good candidate for plasma donation. To become a plasma donor you need to already be a whole blood donor, and meet other special requirements including height and weight restrictions, and have suitable veins.

“I went home, read the brochures, and thought, why not? The good thing about plasma donation is that you can do it often. Now I try and get to the clinic every two weeks,” Ben says.

Plasma and plasma products are used in many different ways. Some plasma is stored frozen and thawed when needed to treat those who have suffered severe injury and lost a lot of blood. Special concentrates from plasma are used to treat kidney patients and chemotherapy patients. It is also used for those who suffer from bleeding disorders and to boost the immune systems of those without enough antibodies of their own to protect against infections.

A plasma donation takes about 60 minutes, a process, Ben describes, as “relatively painless”. A special machine is used to collect your blood via a small needle in the arm. It then separates out the plasma, and returns the red blood cells and platelets to the donor using the same needle.

For those people considering becoming a whole blood or plasma donor, Ben encourages you to make an appointment today. “I know a lot of people who are ‘getting around to it’, but that is not good enough. You never know when you might need it yourself,” he says.

To find out more about how you can donate plasma and have a heart of gold like Ben, click here or call 0800 448 325.

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