Evelyn Alexander

Evelyn is still donating at 82. She looks back at her life as a donor.

Evelyn around the time she started donatingIt was some time in the early 60s when I was sitting in a cinema with my friend, Pauline, waiting for the film to begin. The adverts came on, including one picturing a very sick-looking baby waiting for a blood transfusion. Pauline was pregnant at the time, and said, “I can’t give blood now.” I thought, “But I can.” So I went to the next donor session I could find one and discovered that my blood group was A negative.  

(Picture: Evelyn was in her early twenties when she first donated)

My first donation was in Newcastle upon Tyne where I lived at the time. I remember being a little bit apprehensive. Donors lay on beds and a member of staff sat beside each one, occasionally shaking the glass bottle which collected  the blood. You got a card and a little certificate stuck inside with the date and message, “......has given blood for the benefit of others” and it made you (well, me at least) feel that I was contributing to society.  

After giving your blood you had to lie there and a time was written on your pillow so that the staff knew when to get you up. For first time donors, there was only a cold drink with the biscuits afterwards and a packet of iron pills to take away with you to help your body to recover. I gather that this was discontinued as people didn’t take the pills because of the resultant constipation! I don’t remember any ill effects after that first donation.  

Since then, I have continued to give blood whenever I could and have now clocked up 139 (I think!) donations of whole blood. At 82, I am fortunate to be fit enough to be able to donate and intend to carry on for as long as I can. Who knows, one day I might need somebody else’s armful. 

I’m going to keep on giving for as long as I can

Evelyn recentlyAfter a few of my early sessions, I was asked to go to the General Hospital in Newcastle to give blood while a patient with haemophilia was having surgery. This was a humbling experience that brought home to me the importance of blood in medicine and it’s kept me motivated. Also, friends have had joint replacements that have needed transfusions and as I now have osteoarthritis I may need someone’s help in the future.  

(Picture: Evelyn has donated 139 times)

I have lived in Carlisle, Ulverston, Brampton, and am now back to Carlisle. I’ve, donated in all of those places, seen staff members come and go, but always received a very warm welcome.  

If anyone I knew was thinking about becoming a donor but was anxious, I would try to find out why they were anxious, but I could tell them honestly that the process is painless, that it does you no harm whatsoever and that your body replaces the blood you donate very quickly. If that didn’t work, I would invite them to come along with me and talk to one of the staff. 

I think my next session will be my 140th donation and I’m going to keep on giving for as long as I can because I really believe in the concept and also because my blood is one of the rarer types.