Wednesday, 26 September 2012

An amazing reason to eat dark chocolate - go on, give blood

This evening, I have selflessly consumed 100g of 85% cocoa solids dark chocolate. I say selflessly because I am trying to lose some weight, and I actually feel a little bit sick just now. I could have done without eating quite that much, but I have a purpose, and, yes, you guessed it, I'm going to tell you about it. Tomorrow, I am giving blood. Assuming my corpsucles are acceptable, this will be my 6th pint. Annoyingly, my iron levels are sometimes too low for it to be safe for me to donate and I am turned away - hence my consumption of dark chocolate this evening.

Two more pints to go and I will have replenished the stocks that my son received - 8 precious pints - during the first year of his chemotherapy treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. I have written before about the shock of his diagnosis, at the age of 2, on our wedding anniversary in 2006, and the heartache and tears of the 3 years 4 months of his treatment; the effects of the chemotherapy drugs and the steroids that he had to take, the birth of our daughter, 3 months after his diagnosis, and the relapse monster, who lurks at the back of our lives, occasionally rearing its ugly head. Thankfully, though, as I type, our funny, lovely, deep-thinking, healthy, nearly 9 yr old boy is snoring contentedly upstairs, free of the disease and with less than 2 years to get through before he will receive the all clear.

Before he became ill, blood donation had never featured in my life. The Husband donated regularly throughout his Army career, but I simply didn't appreciate the need for blood and how it can absolutely save lives. The 'do something amazing - give blood' tag line is no exaggeration. In Blue's case, the chemotherapy that he received not only wiped out the mutant cells that packed out his bone marrow, suffocating his system, but all the healthy blood cells. It became part of our routine - the chemo, a course of steroids when his appetite increased to gargantuan proportions followed by a lapse into lethargy. Regular - sometimes daily - blood tests would monitor his red blood cell count and as it dipped, the need for a transfusion would be debated with us by the angels Community nursing team and doctors treating him.

On 8 occasions, including the night of his diagnosis when he was ravaged with the disease and an infection that he had picked up, and very seriously ill, he needed blood. 8 precious pints. I cannot begin to describe how grateful we were - and still are - that the blood was available. Over 4 hours, our boy would slowly fill back up with healthy blood - you could almost see it glugging in to him as his demeanour changed from pallid lethargy to chirpy 2 year old. Frequently, by the end of the transfusion, he would have a Rudolph red nose and be full of beans. He also had to have platelet transfusions on a number of occasions to prevent him bleeding to death. It sounds extreme but that's what we were facing. The disease is brutal, but the treatment is also cruel, and without blood and platelet transfusions, he would quite possibly have died,

Now, there are many reasons why people can't or won't give blood. You can't donate for a number of months after childbirth or an operation. There are a number of safety precautions in place to protect the blood stocks from contamination, and potential donors are asked a number of detailed screening questions. Some people who may otherwise be able to donate may have personal reasons for not wishing to donate, and that's fine by me.


The purpose of me writing this is not to make a judgment about, or change the minds of those who have decided not to give blood, but hopefully to touch people who, like me, have never really considered blood donation before, or have thought about donating but never quite get round to it because it always falls lower down the list of things to do. Only 4% of the population give blood, and looking at the National Blood Service Website, there are only blood stocks for 12 days in the case of AB positive blood type. In the case of O negative, there is only 3.5 days' stock.

Imagine if there wasn't enough. Imagine if it was your child, your husband, your mother who needed a pint and there wasn't enough. So if you've thought about it, but never quite got round to it, - go on - please - do something amazing.

27 comments:

  1. Great post R. It's really made me think. I've never given blood - a combination of reasons/excuses - none that mean I can't. My dad's been in and out of hospital this year, and I know without donated blood, the surgery he needed wouldn't have been possible. Time I think for a trip down the chocolate aisle x

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    1. It's not necessarily the most pleasant thing in the world, but really so important - thanks for reading!

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  2. Then I say, good for you for eating so much chocolate for such a good cause. =D

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    1. Normally I'd say "Any excuse" but I really believe in this one. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I'm so glad Blue is currently doing well. You have really been through the mill. This is a wonderful post and I hope it encourages more people to give blood.

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  4. Lovely post RJ. I was a committed blood donor in the UK, but am unable to donate here in Germany at all as they don't consider my blood to be safe enough - due to the BSE crisis in the UK. Hope all goes well today and treat yourself with some more chocolate as a pick me up afterwards!

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  5. So glad he is better, and it really makes it more compelling when you have the real life stories about why we need blood donors. Thanks for sharing what has been such a difficult time for you, in order to highlight this important cause to others

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    1. It's hard to know whether people get bored with me banging on about it, but it's so important.

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  6. RJ, I have big old tears rolling down my cheeks at the thought of your darling boy, and indeed your whole family, in such a situation. In the past my blood pressure has been too low to donate blood but I haven't had it checked in many years. You've spurred me on to go and see if I can make a donation x

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    1. and you've made me cry now. Thanks for your comment and for the tweet xxx

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  7. I donated on Monday afternoon - it's often touch and go whether or not they'll let me as I do have low iron levels, but thankfully they did this time.

    Yes I have a fear of needles and yes I have a busy life, but it's a very small thing to do and it can make such a difference. When my sister was born my Mum lost a lot of blood and had a transfusion. She can't donate, so I do for her and anyone who needs my A rhesus red stuff.

    Oh and the post donation ginger nut and cuppa is totally worth breaking my diet for :o)

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    1. We had club biscuits this afternoon - result! The donor carers I speak to say that its often only after something happens to a family (as it did with me) that people realise how important blood donation is. Which is why I thought I'd post this :-)

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  8. My goodness what a difficult and traumatic few years it must have been for you. I'm so glad that your son is now well and I'll be crossing lots of fingers and toes for the all clear in two years time. It is just so amazing what can be achieved these days. Hope your chocolate consumption worked (that's quite some feat) and you'll be able to give blood tomorrow.

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    1. Thanks Choclette - it worked like a dream - they put a test drop into a solution and it has to sink within a certain time before they will let you donate - I've never seen mine drop like a stone quite so convincingly! So 6th pint is duly donated - although I'll go on after I've hit 8 of course - and I know what to do for the future!

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  9. I haven't managed to give blood since having kids. As DS2 is now three, I really ought to get my act together about it. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. It's one of those things though - there is so much else to remember, and you need to get the kids sorted etc. We get the blood service visiting our village every 3 months, but the time slots are tricky, even fitting in with school hours, so it can take some planning

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  10. I'm just so glad to read that your son recovered and I wish the next two years would just fly by and he will always be well. It's wonderful that you are giving back so that someone can also benefit from the blood.

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  11. You have spurred me on to make sure I go next time they have a session here. I will cross my fingers for the next two years for you xx

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  12. I have just found out my next session is in a week. All marked on the calendar. Thank you for the reminder :)

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    1. Brilliant! Thank you for supporting - it's so important for everyone

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  13. Your post is certainly a heart-tugging plea, and has given me the impetus to get back out & donate. Its so important.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting :-)

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  14. Aww mate :( I saw this on facebook and thought 'oh yeah, I had a big blood transfusion, I'll go and say ta' but I had no idea your son had been so ill. Glad he's much better now but it must have been horrid for you all. They apparently started running a bit short of blood when I had mine (being a difficult sort I obviously require O-neg)so it really is important to keep the stocks up! x

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    1. Was horrible, but like childbirth, much of the horror has receded, thankfully, and he hardly remembers any of it - only that he was allowed to eat tea and watch TV at the same time - something that is sadly lacking from his life now... Hope it wasn't anything too horrendous that prompted your transfusion

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