I was 25 years old when I stepped into the Glasgow Blood Donor centre to give blood for the first time. It had always been something I had thought about doing, but like most of the population I'd just never really got round to it. In Scotland, only 5% of us are active donors meaning National Blood Week is more important than ever.
I should probably point out that not everyone who wants to donate is a suitable donor. That's why it's vital that if you are eligible, then you do give blood on a regular basis. I have friends who have lived abroad or take certain medications that prevent them from being able to donate. I have other friends who are gay or who frequently get tattoos, and this means they also fall into categories that don't allow them to do it. If you're one of the unlucky ones (or I guess lucky if you're scared of needles) who can't give blood, then you'll probably be able to talk a family member or work colleague who can. After all, you do have 95% of the Scottish population to choose from.
Growing up as a fan of a certain Dr Ross in ER, I saw my fair share of patients being given blood on TV. But it wasn't until I was 21 that I actually saw first-hand how vital blood donations are for the people who need them. I had just graduated from university and thought my world was pretty invincible when my brother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He didn't just need one transfusion, he had regular blood and platelet transfusions during his 12 month stay in hospital. Like most cancer patients, it's a normal part of their treatment and they wouldn't be able to undergo chemotherapy without it.
Both my siblings have spent time in hospital with serious illnesses, but somehow I manage to pull a lucky card because I've never really been sick. I endured the playground fun of wearing glasses and braces at the same time, but I've never spent any time in hospital. I haven't had to rely on other people giving blood in order to live to like my brother did when he was just 11 years old. Other members of my family need to take medication every day which makes them unable to donate. It means I've somehow ended up flying the solo flag for blood donations in the Moyes household, and I'm determined to convince others to join me.
If you're someone who has given blood before, then maybe it's time to take the next step and think about giving platelets. The small cells are what help our blood to clot, and they're vital for people undergoing cancer treatment. And with a shelf-life of just a few days, it's essential that donations are continually coming in. Due to my weight, I've not yet be able to donate platelets. My brother seems to think a good sister would gain 21 pounds so she could do it, but instead I've tried to convince the nurse at my local centre that I'd be a suitable donor. Unfortunately after several attempts, I've still had no luck.
The truth of the matter is that at one point or another, either you or someone close to you is going to need a blood transfusion. It might not be today, and it might not happen for another 10 years. But how would you feel if the doctors turned around and told you that supplies were too low? It might seem like an extreme scenario right now, but it might just happen if more of us don't understand how important it is to start donating blood.