Thursday, 14 November 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Saving lives one blood donation at a time

Tom Riddle donated blood for the first time when he worked as a porter at Waikato Hospital at the age of 19.

Now, 57 years later, the 76-year-old has been acknowledged for clocking up 100 donations. And the Cooks Beach resident says it would have been more had it not been for the absence of a blood donor clinic when he returned to the Coromandel to live in 1969.

“I was born in Thames, but I was away for a few years for work,” Tom told The Informer on Thursday last week, after the New Zealand Blood Service presented him in Whitianga with a certificate and a special artwork as a thank you for his commitment. “I was working in the hospital and heard they were looking for people to donate blood and I thought, ‘I could do that,’ and I’ve been doing it pretty much ever since.”

When Tom and wife, Jan, settled in Coroglen 50 years ago, Tom would have liked to continue donating blood, but the option wasn’t available initially. “There just wasn’t anywhere to do it,” Tom says. “Then a campaign was started. I know well-known local body politician, Joan Gaskell, was heavily involved, she was absolutely determined to make it happen, and eventually managed to get a donor clinic to come to Whitianga, I think it was every six months. So I would travel up from Coroglen and then later Cooks Beach to donate.”

Tom says he was motivated to donate regularly for so long because of the vital importance of blood in helping so many people. Approximately, 3,000 donations are needed every week in hospitals across New Zealand and currently just four per cent of people roll up their sleeves to assist.

“When you think that one donation can save the lives of up to three people, it’s such a simple way to help our fellow mankind,” Tom says. “It doesn’t take much time and you even get a cup of tea and a biscuit or two for your trouble.”

Reluctantly, due to the eligibility rules of the New Zealand Blood Service, Tom gave his final blood donation last week, but is now urging more donors to come forward. “I would have continued if I could, but you’re only allowed to donate up until your 76th birthday,” he says. “They took one more from me to allow me to get to 100. But I would love to see more people going along. We used to have maybe 120 people turn up. Now quite a lot of the regular donors are getting older, although it’s great to see the students coming along from Mercury Bay Area School. I think we should be encouraging more young people to give blood because, as is the case with me, if you start out young and get into the habit, it just becomes something that you do.”

The New Zealand Blood Service has now made it easier for people to donate blood with an easy to use online booking system. In addition, those who cannot commit to donating right now can add their details to a database through the Reserve Bench Campaign so they can be contacted in the event of an emergency or blood shortages. More information about donor eligibility, how to donate or join the reserve bench is available at www.nz.blood.co.nz. A blood donor clinic is held at the Whitianga Town Hall every three months.

Returning home to Cooks Beach to find a spot on the wall for his certificate, Tom says his work as a donor is not quite done yet. “I really want to put it out there how important this is,” he says. “I might not be able to give blood myself anymore, but I will be encouraging others to do so whenever I can.” Thankfully enjoying good health, Tom has never needed to receive blood, but says he is always mindful of the future. “That’s the thing about it, none of us knows what lies ahead, we might be the ones needing help one day, so if we can do something for others now then why not, it’s just a good thing for us to do,” he says.

Pictured: Cooks Beach resident, Tom Riddle, was on Thursday last week presented with a certificate and a piece of artwork to acknowledge the 100 blood donations he has made to the New Zealand Blood Service.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.