I still felt woozy from the anaesthetic, and I was used to seeing a drip by the side of the bed, a plastic tube leading from it to a needle in the back of my hand. What I was less used to was the colour of the liquid in the drip bag. It was red.
I was 12 years old, and I had spent six hours in theatre in order to have a cancerous tumour removed from my abdomen, taking my destroyed ovary with it. Although the red bag was just one part of a wearisome and frightening journey to eradicate cancer from my body, its significance has echoed down through the years.
As I lay in bed that evening in hospital, glad to be alive but exhausted and unaware of what had happened in the operating theatre, it took a few moments for me to realise that the red liquid was blood and I wasn’t sure why I needed it. The full story was beyond my comprehension; during the operation, I had lost a lot of my own blood, and it needed to be replaced. Without it, I would have died. Without it, my small child’s body would never have overcome the rigours of the operation.
Years later, when I was fully recovered from cancer, I looked into donating blood myself. However, I did not meet the criteria of a suitable blood donor, as I had received a blood transfusion during the past 20 years. People who have received donor blood themselves are surely the most likely to want to repay the favour, but the irony is they cannot for at least two decades, and even then they may still be unable to for other reasons. It’s even more imperative that healthy people donate blood.
I’ve heard a lot of excuses. “I’m afraid of needles.” “I don’t have time.” “I’m not doing anything that will hurt me.” Can you put aside your fears for a few moments in order to potentially save a life?
One of the only reasons I am here today is because someone took time out of their day to go to their local town hall to give blood, have a cup of tea and a biscuit, then go back to work, to uni or to pick up the children. I hope you can make the time to do the same, to do something extraordinary for a stranger and yet so ordinary too.