Everyone’s somebody’s type.
My grandfather had a great old saying: It’s good to be unique, except when it comes to blood type. As a rare blood type himself, he understood that more than most and was a lifelong donor. I can’t help but think of him as World Blood Donor Day approaches on June 14. Countless times throughout the year, he’d roll up his sleeves to donate, contributing to Australia’s blood supply.
Turns out that blood supply is one of the most reliable in the world, with a history dating back more than 90 years and a vast pool of donors who regularly roll up their sleeves.
The Australian Red Cross notes one in 30 Australians give blood each year, with over 1.4 million individual donations given in 2018-19 by 523,688 people.
Each of those donations potentially saves up to three lives, as statistics also indicate one in three Australians will require blood or blood products in their lifetime.
Chances are, each of us knows someone who has directly benefitted from a blood donation and it may well have saved their life.
As a result, the Australian Red Cross requires an astounding 29,000 blood donations each and every week.
The beginning of Australia’s national blood supply dates right back to 1929, when pathologist Dr Lucy Bryce set up the first Red Cross volunteer blood transfusion service in Australia.
But the fascinating history of transfusions and donations extends far beyond that. The first successful transfusion was actually completed in 1665 in the UK between a human and a dog. However, it wasn’t until 1818 that the first successful human transfusion was completed, in a bid to treat a post-partum haemorrhage.
Meanwhile, in 1900 different blood types were discovered and by WWI vein-to-vein transfusions were being used to treat shock.
Initially Australia’s blood supply also involved direct transfusions but in 1939, the Victorian Red Cross instead created blood banks.
In the years after, Australia became the first country to screen our entire blood supply for HIV and the second in the world to screen for Hepatitis C.
By 1996 the various state authorities had amalgamated into the Australian Red Cross and by 2003, Australian blood donations per annum had reached one million.
If there’s one person who symbolises how effective Australia’s blood donation scheme really is, it is donor James Harrison.
Known as ‘the man with the golden arm’, his donations helped save more than two million babies across the country.
James was among the pioneers of the Anti-D program, with his blood containing a precious anti-body that is given to women whose bodies are at risk of attacking their unborn babies.
“More than three million doses of Anti-D containing James’ blood have been issued to Aussie mothers with a negative blood type since 1967,” the Australian Red Cross notes.
Over his 60-year blood donor career, James donated an astounding 1100 times establishing a volunteer legacy that many others now continue.
If you’re interested in giving blood this World Blood Donor Day, the Australian Red Cross can be contacted on 13 14 95, with mobile and permanent collection centres throughout the country.
More information about donor eligibility is also available here.