Our challenge to get more blood donors

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service hopes that Wollongong's new state-of-the-art blood donor centre will get people's generosity flowing.

More than 11,500 litres of blood are expected to be donated each year at the $2.2 million centre, improving the lives of thousands of patients across the state.

Red Cross Blood Service spokeswoman Jemma Falkenmire said the centre's convenient location at 45-53 Kembla Street, flexible hours, free parking and modern facilities should encourage more people to roll up their sleeves.

"We're aiming for schools, business and community groups to provide a quarter of our blood supply and are hoping the new location and brand new centre will help that happen," she said.

"There's more beds at the new centre - which has a total of 15 beds - and extended opening hours, which means a wider choice of appointment times to suit workers, shoppers, students and visitors."

Ms Falkenmire said the move from Wollongong Hospital to the new centre, which was opened on Monday, was part of a national plan to make blood donation a better experience for donors.

The centre was expected to collect 18,000 donations over the next 12 months, which would help more than 54,000 patients in need.

"Once a bag of blood is collected, the clock starts ticking," she said. "Firstly it's transported to Sydney where it's spun into three parts - red cells, plasma and platelets.

"Red cells are used for accident, emergency and trauma; plasma is used for 18 different life-saving products, including those for burns victims and haemophiliacs, and platelets are used for leukaemia and cancer patients."

Ms Falkenmire said the new centre marked another milestone in the long history of blood collection in Wollongong.

"An emergency blood panel was established in Wollongong during World War II as part of wartime contingency planning and the donors would go up to Sydney to donate," she said.

"Mobile visits from Sydney began in Wollongong in 1954 but due to the heavy industry in the region, which lent itself to accidents, a need was seen for a blood bank in Wollongong itself.

"So a South Coast Blood Service was established at Wollongong Hospital and received its first donor on April 8, 1963."

Generous hearts roll up sleeves to save others

Dapto resident Robert Turford first rolled up his sleeve to donate blood 50 years ago in the UK.

His younger brother had suffered a haemorrhage after a tonsil operation and had needed blood, which prompted the young Mr Turford to volunteer – and he hasn’t stopped since.

On Monday he fronted up at the new Wollongong Blood Donor Centre for his 361st donation and was impressed with the modern facilities.

‘‘It’s very efficient, very corporate – bit different to when I started donating,’’ he said. ‘‘The first time was in the UK and I remember lining up behind a bunch of tough Irish labourers. When it was time for the first to give blood, he fainted and the chap behind him fainted too.’’

Corrimal real estate agent Phil Murray is up to 299 donations and his goal is to make 500.

 ‘‘I just like to give back to society,’’ he said. ‘‘I think this new centre is fantastic and it’s much more convenient for blood donors to get here.’’

Both men said while technology had changed over the years, the dedication and professionalism of the blood collection nurses had stayed the same.

One of those registered nurses, Lucy Wright, has been in the job for nearly 30 years and was delighted with her new work environment.

It’s a wonderful facility for donors, she said.

‘‘And keeping the donors comfortable is the most important thing because they are the most beautiful people who keep giving blood to help all those people out there who rely on it.’’

1000 litres in a month

One thousand litres of blood in one month – that’s the challenge the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and the Illawarra Mercury are throwing out to the community.

The blood donation challenge, to mark the official opening of the Wollongong Blood Donor Centre in Kembla Street, is open to individual donors as well as groups.

So whether you’re part of a business, a community or sporting organisation, or a school group, it’s time to open your hearts, and roll up your sleeves. It might even create a bit of healthy competition between groups or teams – you can even throw down the challenge to one of our community or business leaders!

The Mercury will cover the efforts of community members or groups along the way, with the hope that the Wollongong centre can collect 1000 litres of blood by April 25. That’s one month from now and, coincidentally, a date on the calendar that commemorates the bravery and selflessness of Australians.

Call 131495 for information and to make an appointment, and email lwachsmuth@illawarramercury. com.au to tell what you’re planning!

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