All going to plan, in exactly one month’s time I shall head to Christchurch’s NZ Blood Service for extraction of my 100th apheresis donation.
Friday the 13th of July is scheduled to be the landmark date in question, and is the perfect day for a number of reasons: firstly it is the date of that month’s New Moon (conversely to a Full Moon a New Moon is actually no moon, which is pretty awesome); secondly, technically, it’s Black Friday which is pretty awesome as well and finally, indeed most importantly, the 13th generally falls the day after the 12th July, which is my 35th birthday.
I first donated to NZ Blood Service sometime throughout my early-twenties, probably as a way of giving back to the nation from which I felt I was taking so much; then from there, on a quarterly basis, I continued giving pints of ‘whole blood’ (simply, the unadulterated red liquid that comes out of our veins – a process which takes under ten minutes but for some people, may act detrimentally on iron levels).
This Friday – Friday 15th June – I intend to head into NZ Blood Service to squeeze out number 99.
Obviously, doing the math, twelve or so years at three or four times a year is not nearly long enough to achieve such a milestone; thus eight or nine years ago, under the recommendation of NZ Blood Service nurses, I made the conversion from whole blood to ‘plasma’ (effectively blood concentrate, plasma is the translucent substance taken from within whole blood – it’s the ‘weeping’ around the edges of a fresh wound – and due to its versatility also beneficial/regenerative/life-giving/saving properties, is considered even more valuable than whole blood) which, for most people, can be given as frequently as every two weeks.
Originally occupying Riccarton Road’s defunct Georgie Pie building, Christchurch’s NZ Blood Service now resides at its very own, purpose (Ngai Tahu) built building, nestled away down the end of Lester Lane, just off Deans Ave.
The plasma-letting process really is a sight to behold; first comes my favourite part – watching that lustrous needle penetrate and become enveloped by, then disappear beneath, ostensibly becoming one with, the supple skin of my right arm. After that, similarly to whole blood, the machine draws a quantity of red blood cells which, in this case it collects in a centrifugal chamber that – mingled with anticoagulant to avoid clots – winds up and spins furiously, separating plasma from the red blood cells. The most amazing part then follows: as I lie there in my wonderfully, my delightfully ergonomic chair, restfully and relaxed, the red blood cells are slowly returned to my body, thus rendering the depletion of iron reserves minimal. This ‘draw’, ‘spin’, ‘return’ process is repeated – for someone like me at my diminutive 71kgs – four times, with each draw varying in quantity from person to person but, in my case around 500mls.
Admittedly this current scheduling has worked out less than perfectly, with my desire to make the date of July 13 number 100 meaning that I’ve had to deliberately miss a few appointments and will likely miss another still; alas it’s my own fault really, given that I have not fallen afoul of any prolonged illness since returning from Vietnam this time last year.
The entire plasma-letting process takes around an hour, that’s including coffee and all the glorious ANZAC biscuits I can eat – also as many hard candies and mints as I can stuff into my pockets while the delightful kitchen lady pretends to look the other way – but for me, it is ultimately my hour to reflect, to contemplate, to know I am surrounded by good people and to know furthermore – with each unit of plasma that I donate saving potentially three lives – that my efforts are appreciated by a great many more living people throughout New Zealand.
Commemoration of this momentous/fortuitous/serendipitous occasion (which I had last year been hoping would include the earning of my jiu-jitsu blue belt at our impending grading day but, after failing to grade up last December, this has become less likely) is to be marked by a trip back to Vietnam a fortnight later where – amid a country that I feel won the battle last time – this time who knows?
It really is a tremendous shame that more able bodied Kiwis don’t visit the NZ Blood Service; whatever your reason for not, there is probably a far better reason for Giving Blood.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Sal E Brace
Photography by Archie V Mont