Did you know that June 14th is World Blood Donor Day? We are all encouraged to present ourselves at our nearest centre.
There those of us who are young enough can, unlike the great Tony Hancock, be quite prepared to give our “very nearly an armful!" of blood. In my case I had very good intentions but as you will read below, in the main I failed dismally.
In 1964, I was eighteen and had just started my first job as a very junior secretary in an office based in the Strand.
For the first time I was eligible to give blood so altruistically put my name down on the list of blood donors going round the office. “They’ll give you a pint of blood my dear” says my boss kindly. This was the 60s when the Twiggy look was all the rage.
However, I wasn’t deterred and that afternoon walked down to the donor centre which was in an imposing building, the offices of a large oil company. I presented myself before the desk which was manned by a stern looking woman.
“First time?” she asks and I nod.
There’s a lot of waiting around. First the woman asks a number of questions, one of which is how much do I weigh, before sending me further on to have a blood smear taken to find out my blood type. I’m sent to sit and wait but almost immediately my name is called and I rush forward, rolling up my sleeve, poised and ready.
Instead I’m called into an office to see the doctor. She seemed sympathetic but peered at me searchingly.
“I see you’ve put that you weigh eight stone, I don’t think you look that heavy myself.” “We..ll” I stutter, “I’m not entirely sure, that was what I weighed last time I checked.”
She frowns and points to the scales. It’s one of the old fashioned balance kinds. She slides on the eight stone weights and it clunks down. Without comment she starts to remove weights. I actually weigh six and a half stone. She shakes her head and tells me that they won’t be taking any blood today.
“Come back when you do weigh eight stone, preferably a bit more. You can’t afford to lose a pint.”
I steal away and my final humiliation comes when the kindly lady dispensing tea directs me to sit down and have a cup.
“You’ll feel better soon dear but I wouldn’t leave just yet you look terribly pale.”
I try to tell her I haven’t actually given any blood but she insists on me staying and drinking her brew after which I creep back to the office where needless to say everyone had a good laugh.
Many years later I have a new doctor who, finding out that I’m blood type B, harangues me about not volunteering to give blood.
Knowing that I’ll now easily fulfil the instruction of “a bit more than eight stone” I again turn up at the donor station. This time all seems well. My answers to the questions all receive ticks and I’m directed to the room with banks of beds and connected up. I glance up at the suspended bottle gradually collecting my blood.
Gradually is the word however.
The people on either side of me finish and are replaced by other volunteers. The nurse comes along and looks at my quarter full bottle and instructs me briskly to press harder on the small wooden baton in my hand. The people on either side of me again finish and are replaced. My bottle is now about half full. The nurse comes along and looks disparagingly at the bottle. After the third turn round in the adjoining beds they disconnect me too. My bottle is about two thirds full. I don’t know whether they will ever be able to use this meagre contribution but again I am encouraged to have a cup of tea before leaving.
This was to be my only successful contribution because shortly afterwards I received a letter stating that as I had lived in the West Indies for a while when I was young I wasn’t now eligible to give blood.