“I was nervous the first time I gave blood,” admits Brisbane mother-of-two Kim Staunton. “It was back in the day when they gave you a local anaesthetic needle before they put the donation needle in... Having two needles was even more scary than having one.”
But Kim, who was 17 at the time, faced down her fears and donated. She was relieved to discover that the process “didn’t hurt at all” and soon became a regular donor.
In the 30-odd years since that initial trip to the Red Cross, she has donated blood on 150 occasions in Queensland, where she lives, and dozens more times in Victoria, where she grew up (she’s not sure of the exact number because the Red Cross didn’t have a national recording system in the 1980s).
“It just makes me feel really happy,” says the 49-year-old. “I feel really proud knowing that I’m helping people – helping to save lives.”
She adds: “I know a lot of us don’t always have money to give, but this is something that you can give frequently – and it doesn’t cost anything.”
For Kim, who works at insurance giant IAG, donating blood has always felt personal. In high school, doctors discovered that one of her classmates and good friends needed a heart transplant, so Kim spent a lot of time at the hospital keeping her friend company.
While she was there, she became aware of the huge need for blood donations. “I would just see all the people in the hospital...” she says, trailing off. “It was a way to give back.”
Today, giving blood is part of her regular routine: she donates every four weeks if she is giving whole blood, or every two weeks if she is giving plasma (a component of blood that holds the blood cells in suspension). And she has no plans to stop. “I’ll keep donating until they tell me I can’t do it any more,” she says.
Kim has even made a regular donor out of her husband. “He doesn’t have the opportunity to get into a donation centre, but he donates whole blood every time the mobile bus goes past his work.”
Knowing that every blood donation can help save three lives is a powerful motivator for Kim. “As a donor, I quite often get text messages telling me that my blood has been used to save the life of motor vehicle accident victim at a particular hospital. That makes you feel really proud.”
Kim also says donating has made her a better person by teaching her not to judge others. “We see many many different sorts of people at the blood bank: all different cultures and all different backgrounds,” she says. “We see bikie-looking people come in and we see older women with their knitting. We see young teenagers there with their parents or their school groups.”
She reckons the diversity of donors is proof that giving blood makes you feel good, no matter who you are. To those who are considering donating for the first time, she says: “Give it a go. It’s not as scary as you think it is, and you will truly be saving a lot of lives.”