I have been giving platelets once a month, for the last number of years now. I first gave blood when I was in college, in Limerick. The IBTS visited the college twice a year to collect blood from the students.
From the time I was 15 years of age, I knew I would become a blood donor, because a close friend of mine developed leukemia. She went from being a healthy fit and very beautiful person to being within a few hours of death in a matter of weeks.
I remember very clearly visiting her in hospital, and seeing her look so pail that her lips had lost a lot of their colour. She was barely able to talk and could not sit-up without becoming extremely dizzy. A nurse brought in a bag containing a dark red liquid, which I realized was blood. Once the transfusion started I watched as my friend started to come back to life. As long as I live I will never forget seeing this. She went from being unable to sit-up to being able to walk around within a matter of 2 hours. I can only describe it as watching a fire which gives heat and warmth but does not consume or burn.
The amazing thing about this is she was not cured immediately by the blood, but she looked for all intensive purposes to have been cured. For this time she was living purely on the generosity of 7 donors. Ever since that day I have thought about those 7 people, and the amazing thing that they did. I will never know them and they will never know how they have and continue to inspire me in very many ways.
I have often had discussions with friends about giving blood and convinced a few to do so, by telling them this story. During one of these discussions the subject of platelet donation came up, and a stranger who was sitting behind us overheard me describing the procedure and saying that I had done it. When I was leaving the café a while later she came up to me and told me that her child had developed leukemia, she thanked me for donating blood and thanked me for talking to other people about it. She said that the donors had given her back her child. I was very moved by this, and the only thing I could say to her was, your child received only what the donors had to spare, but your child will receive from you, everything you have.
A donor just gives 30 minutes or so but you will give to your child every second you can. I know that donating blood really does make a unique difference to the person who receives it, and their friends and family. I am always really moved and honored to be able to assist someone in this most unique and personal way. Martin O'Sullivan