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
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.