John Austin

John remembers pangs of love and giving blood!

John in 1959It was the 8th of February 1955, the second year of my heating engineer apprenticeship. At the time when the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) as it was then, had a donation session in the works' recreation club, I was suffering the severe pangs of first love for one of the lady tracers in the drawing office where I worked. As she came past my desk, she asked me if I was planning to give blood.

(Picture: John Austin in 1959)

"A big boy like you should be able to afford to give a pint of blood!" she said, rather cheekily, with a twinkle in her eye.

She said that she was on her way to donate and suggested that we walk up the road to the club together. I immediately stopped what I was doing, put on my jacket and hurried after her, even though I had never given blood before. This was too good an opportunity to miss – to be alone with my beloved. My heart was racing!

Ten minutes later, on reaching the venue, I was dismayed to learn that the minimum age for donors was 18. I was only 17 at the time but was determined to be seen by my love to be 'up for it'. So, I lied about my age - took a year off my birth year, and happily settled on the next bed to my goddess to make my first donation.

John AustinIn those days donors lay flat on beds, with a round stick in their hand to clench and unclench to help the flow and a blanket laid over their lower body for warmth.

There were no computers, of course, and the attendant nurse was with you for the duration of your donation, using the time to fill in the forms and labels.

(Picture: John who has made 74 donations)

The site of the needle was covered by a small piece of cotton wool with a simple length of plaster. And of course, there were tea, coffee, or soft drinks to go with the biscuits after you were done.

And for the next 20 years or so, I had to remember at each session to add a year to my age, until work overseas prevented me from donating.

By the time I began to donate regularly again, the system had changed and all records were computerised. I no longer received the tiny certificates to proudly stick into my little blue NBTS folder to add to the 24 already there, which I still treasure.

There is nothing to be worried about – everyone is very gentle and kind.

What has kept me going all these years are communications from the service with information on how valuable my blood is. My blood type is O negative, which is also called 'universal' because people of any blood type can receive it.

So please come to donate if you can. One donation can save and improve up to three lives.

There is nothing to be worried about – everyone is very gentle and kind.