WHEN he was 18, Ted O’Leary gave his first blood donation.
Now 73, the Macroom man has passed the 100-pint mark, and helped save the lives of numerous people.
“I will continue to give blood for as long as I can,” says Ted, who has donated 102 pints to date.
“When I first started giving blood, I was quite a young man.
“I joined the FCA at 18 and I realised then that it was a good thing to give blood.
“I remember my first blood donation well. It might be my imagination, but the needles have got much smaller over the years!
“Before I gave blood at the age of 18, I never knew the importance of donating it and didn’t understand how important it was “But when I realised the importance of giving blood to save lives, my ambition was always to reach the 100 mark. I did that last year.” Ted is justifiably proud of the unique emblems that he has been awarded over the years to commemorate his immense contribution to society.
“It is a wonderful thing to do,” he says of blood donations. “Every contribution matters in saving lives.” Ted received a silver pin for 10 donations, a gold pin for 20, a gold drop pin for 50 donations and for the 100th, a porcelain pelican depicting a mother pelican feeding her young with her own blood.
“The pelican ornament made from porcelain, has pride of place on my mantelpiece at home,” says Ted.
What blood group is he?
“I am the most common blood type,” he says with a smile. “O Positive.
“My blood is always in demand. Since I’ve been giving blood, I’ve met numerous people who’ve had to receive blood for various medical reasons. Blood is needed all the time.” The need for it is constant. The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is aiming to recruit 15,000 new donors this year from around the country, particularly encouraging young people to come forward.
“I would advise people to give blood, very much so,” says Ted.
Garda Superintendent Con Cadogan, who is a regular blood donor and has also given more than 100 donations, agrees that it is something everyone can do.
“It is a very worthwhile thing to do,” says Con. “Donating blood is a valuable contribution to help save lives.” Con, too, can remember giving his first pint of blood.
“I donated my first pint of blood, B positive, as a new Garda recruit in Templemore in 1982,” he recalls.
“Now I donate platelets on a monthly basis. I was requested to donate platelets and I was happy to oblige.
“Most platelets go to patients with serious medical conditions, such as leukaemia and cancer.
“Giving platelets takes a bit longer than donating blood. It can take up to one and a half hours. You may feel a bit tired afterwards, but that is all.” Con is always struck by the organised, calm, atmosphere at the transfusion centre located at St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road. “It is totally professional,” he says.
What would he say to those who may be squeamish about needles?
“The fear of the needle is only a thought or perception,” says Con. My recollection was the initial painful prick on the finger when the blood was tested for suitability.” Con knows fear of needles is a reason people might shy away from giving blood.
“It has changed drastically and the process is down to a fine art now,” he adds. “The needles that are used nowadays are much finer. A local anaesthetic is applied onto the site where the needle is inserted. You might feel a little pinch. But that’s all.
“The process is painless and the professionals at the blood clinic always reassure people.” There is an added bonus. You get a mini check- up yourself “Your blood pressure and pulse is checked,” says Con. “The blood test can detect any infection you may have so it can be treated sooner rather than later.” The bottle of Guinness that my own father used to look forward to after donating his pint of blood has been replaced with a welcome cuppa. He was certain it was a tonic and that it replaced lost iron.
“It’s probably a good thing the bottle of Guinness has been replaced by a cup of tea and a piece of cake,” he says.
“It would be bad example! Especially in my profession! The tea and cake, or sandwich, is a much better option.
“It’s all very sophisticated now. There is a variety of sandwiches available in the fridge. You can help yourself to tea and coffee. So you can have a snack either before or after giving blood.” Con agrees that encouraging young people to donate blood favours the spread of healthy lifestyles.
“It is great to see young people at the blood centre.
“Often they come in pairs or in small groups for moral support and they begin to make a habit of donating blood. There is great credit due to them. They take it seriously.” Con takes his mission to help save lives very seriously.
“I lost a niece to leukaemia,” he says. “It brings home to you how important it is to give blood or blood platelets. She underwent a lot of blood transfusions when she was ill.” Con and his colleagues often come across people in their job who are involved in road accidents.
“It makes you realise that blood transfusions are vital to save lives,” he says. “Accidents happen every day, on the road, on the farm.
“Basically, blood is required to carry out any surgery; from major surgery to minor surgery; from sporting injuries to people suffering with cancer. Blood donations benefit every operationn.
“And we all know somebody who has been affected by cancer. We all know sick relations. You never know when you, or a loved one, may need a blood transfusion. Blood is of the essence. It is the difference between life and death.
“Donating blood is a way to give something back.
“If you think of it that way; it is a small commitment to make.” Like Ted, Con finds that donating blood is almost a way of life.
“You see the same people coming in and out of the clinic,” says Con. “We all seem to be creatures of habit. We all have something in common and we have formed a relationship with the staff. It is very social. We enjoy a cup of tea and a chat afterwards. I am sure if more people went along, they would become regular donors. I would certainly encourage people to think about giving blood.” Con will continue with his commitment that proves so valuable to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.
“I’ll keep going as long as I can,” he says. “I made the commitment to donate blood or blood platelets four times a year; which is every six months. So yes. I will keep going.” Paul McKinney, Operations Director of the IBTS, said: “To reach 100 donations really is a lifetime achievement award.
“On average, a blood donor gives blood 1.18 times a year — so to reach 100 donations you are talking about people showing fantastic commitment to blood donation and it is incredible to think how many patient lives these donors have improved and saved.
“Our current campaign, #everyonecounts talks about the importance of communities supporting blood donation, with every donor and every donation, saving lives. It would be no exaggeration to say between these two donors, it is probable they have helped at least one person whom we know personally.
“Hopefully, they will inspire others to attend more regularly or even to start giving blood, particularly during the summer period when blood donation falls across the country as people’s routines change with holidays and the hopefully fine weather.”