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‘The lifeblood of our communities’

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‘The lifeblood of our communities’

National Blood Donor Week puts the spotlight on everyday Aussies who are saving countless lives with a simple gesture. WORDS: Linda Read.

Every 18 seconds, someone in Australia needs a blood donation. Often, that donation saves their life.

In 2005, Sunshine Coast resident Chris Bond became one of those people.

Mr Bond is the captain of the Australian Steelers: our nation’s double gold medal-winning Paralympic Rugby Team and reigning world champions in the sport.

Currently in preparation with his team for the Paris 2024 Paralympics in August, it’s difficult to imagine Mr Bond as being anyone other than an elite athlete at the top of his game.

However, when he was 19, he found himself battling acute promyelocytic leukaemia, which required extensive chemotherapy and hospitalisation.

A bacterial infection then followed, resulting in the loss of his left hand, right fingers and both legs below the knees.

He does not know the exact number of blood donations he received during his treatment and recovery, as there were simply too many to count.

“I couldn’t tell you, but I would say a lot,” he tells My Weekly Preview.

“I was in a hospital bed for about 10 months straight.

“I’ve had over 60 operations and in the beginning, in ICU, I was on litres of bloods and antibiotics.

“I was in hospital for about three years [altogether].”

Mr Bond speaks frankly about the fact that without those blood donations from selfless strangers, he would not be here – something that he often reflects on today.

“In the beginning [of the treatment], you don’t know what’s going on but later on, you start to understand what unfolded and to know that hundreds of people gave their blood willingly to allow me to live, essentially,” he says.

“I wouldn’t have survived without it – that’s pretty special.”

Those special gifts – the blood and plasma donations from people who donate regularly – are being celebrated this week as part of The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood’s National Blood Donor Week (June 10-16).

The occasion is an opportunity to recognise the Sunshine Coast’s donors.

It also aims to inspire others to join the community of blood and plasma donors who regularly save lives by giving 1.6 million donations across Australia every year, Lifeblood spokesperson Belinda Smetioukh says.

“One-in-three people will need blood or blood products in their lifetime, so we want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all our donors who made a difference – not only to their community, but to patients and families all over Australia,” Ms Smetioukh says.

“On the Sunshine Coast, our local donors are the lifeblood of our community. This National Blood Donor Week, we will be celebrating 41 locals who, this past year, have achieved a milestone donation of 200 or more.

“Between them, they’ve made over 11,200 donations.”

One of the most prolific of those milestone donors is Coast resident and special education teacher Patrick Carr, 55, who has completed more than 325 donations since 2006, and who has no intention of stopping any time soon.

Mr Carr admits that his initial motivation for becoming a donor was a little selfish. He was a self-confessed ‘needle phobic’, due to spending plenty of time in hospitals as a child, and he hoped that giving blood would help him overcome his phobia.

That fear, however, has long since been replaced by a much more altruistic motive, which germinated when Mr Carr worked as a theatre assistant in hospitals and continues to grow through his work in special education.

“Initially, I saw it as a way to address my own fears, but as a young adult working in the field and seeing the benefit for the kids, it spurred me on even more,” he says.

“It then became a combination of ‘I can conquer this fear, and I can do some good for those kids that I’m working with’. I saw those kids going off and having cancer treatments.

“I’ve told them at the blood bank they should try and get some good-looking donors, and they should put out for some younger models, but it’s just something I want to keep doing for as long as they’ll let me.”

While Mr Carr donates plasma every 12 days, he can say with conviction that his needle phobia is well and truly a thing of the past, and he urges others to give blood donation a try.

“It’s so easy to do,” he said.

“The staff and the nurses at the donor centre are just so supportive and they do everything to put you at ease.

“Once you’ve done it a few times, you barely feel it. I seriously don’t feel the needle.”

Despite Lifeblood’s celebration of milestone donors such as Mr Carr, Ms Smetioukh says more donors are desperately needed.

“We are calling on people to become the lifeblood of Australia, the lifeblood of their communities and the lifeblood of those patients who need blood and blood products every day,” she says.

“This week, we still need 200 Sunshine Coast locals to roll up their sleeves and give blood in Maroochydore and Nambour.

“From cancer patients to road-trauma victims, people with blood disorders, surgical patients and new mums – blood is needed for someone, somewhere in Australia, every 18 seconds.

“It takes just an hour of your time to donate blood and every donation can help save up to three lives.”

For Mr Bond, the need for regular blood donations is, quite literally, always close to his heart.

He deeply admires his own father, who has given more than 100 donations, inspired by his son’s experience.

“People might say I’m extraordinary, but what my father has done is extraordinary and he’s saved countless lives,” Mr Bond says.

“I’m sure everyone has been affected by someone in their circle or extended circle who has received or needed blood – that could be you tomorrow.

“The roads are pretty dangerous and life’s unpredictable.

“And it’s something that everyone can do. Most people can go out and take a bit of time out of their day, which can actually really affect someone else’s life.

“So, I would highly encourage people to go out and give blood, if and when they can.”

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