GIVE it a go: it’s painless, it costs nothing and you might just end up saving a life.
So urges Geraldine Power, a nurse in Fermoy Hospital, who this weekend was honoured by the Irish Blood Transfusion Services for making 50 blood donations over the past three decades.
Very few women reach this impressive milestone as it’s not possible to donate during a pregnancy, or for the 12 months afterwards.
With rigorous checks in place, it’s also prohibited to donate after surgery, if taking antibiotics or if unwell.
Considering that Geraldine, in her 60s, is a mum of three and works full time, her commitment and dedication becomes even more impressive.
She describes the honour as a “great personal achievement”.
“I’ve never won an award before — it really is a high point for me,” she said enthusiastically, despite just finishing a 12 hour shift in Fermoy Hospital where she’s worked for nearly 30 years caring for the elderly.
Living in Ballyduff, Waterford, Geraldine was the youngest of six siblings and inspired to give blood by her two older brothers who donated regularly. In fact, one of them hit the 50 mark before her.
Geraldine donates on average of three times a year when she’s off duty — the recommended period between visits is a minimum of 90 days.
“I would have started in my 20s, donating in Kilworth National School. Things have changed a lot since then and you now get text messages inviting you to donate, followed by a reminder,” she says.
Her blood type is AB — quite rare — and she says there’s a great personal satisfaction when the IBTS text her afterwards to tell her where her blood has been used. “That might be Athlone, Dublin or Longford. When I get that text, it’s hard to explain, but it really feels good.”
The process takes between one and two hours altogether but as Geraldine says: “Time is your only cost. You might feel a small pinch, but it’s relatively painless and the staff are excellent.
“You feel fine afterwards although some quiet time post donation is recommended — in other words, don’t start digging the garden!”
Geraldine also points out that when donating, you’re in the company of well people and the mood is usually positive and upbeat.
She’s married to Liam, a self employed coalman, and mum to Wayne, aged 33, Adrian, aged 30, and Leanne, aged 28.
In a nice coincidence, her daughter in law Colette, married to son Wayne, is a Clinical Nurse Manager and runs all the local donation clinics in Munster — although, Geraldine joked, she’s never taken blood from her!
Wayne and Liam were there to see her accept her prize — Adrian works in construction in San Francisco and Leanne is a physiotherapist in New Zealand.
Set to retire from nursing next year, Geraldine, who enjoys good health, is looking forward to catching up on reading and enjoying some travel including seeing her daughter in New Zealand. But she has no plans to retire from donating blood.
“Every unit donated is so important. Just go for it. You might just save one life, be it a baby or an adult, or who knows, you may end up needing it yourself.
“If you start I promise you’ll be hooked. I’m not planning on stopping any time soon — in fact I’ve already given my 51st donation!”