Val Matthews

When did you start giving blood? Some of our longest serving donors began way back in the 1950s and 60s, and have some great memories to share.

Val Matthews first donated with her parents when she was 18. After giving her 75th donation she found out that a student she taught when he was seven is now a regular donor too.

My mum and dad worked for the NHS and had always given blood, so when I was 18, in 1967, I joined them at the Wiseman Hall in Braintree. It seemed like the natural thing to do. When I went to study at Southlands College of Education, Wimbledon some of my friends joined me in the Assembly Hall to donate too.

(Picture: Val age 18)

I have kept my Silver Log Book from 1995 which records 26 previous donations. It was issued when we were living in Bury St Edmunds, which is where I still donate now. The Athenaeum here must be one of the most glamorous venues to give blood. It is an ornate Georgian ballroom, and its chandeliered ceiling and grand décor are more reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice than a blood donation venue.

Val's certificatesWhen I received the notification that I had given my 75th donation it was suggested that I ‘shared’ on Facebook to encourage more donors at this difficult time during the Covid pandemic.

(Picture: Val's donation awards and Log Book)

I was so pleased when one of my ex-pupils, who is now 40ish, responded by recalling the day when the usual blood donation venue next to our school was closed for refurbishment and our school hall was used instead.

That day, I arranged for my class of 7-year-olds to come in and watch me donate, hoping that this would encourage them to follow suit as adults. This young man tells me he has donated all his adult life, is now a Detective chief inspector in the police force and, in his turn, encourages his colleagues to donate. 

More selfishly I have found it (donating) has been a good way of regularly checking my own wellbeing...

Many of my family and friends have benefitted from receiving blood. Luckily, I am still fit and healthy at 72 and feel it is an easy way of helping those less fortunate. More selfishly I have found it has been a good way of regularly checking my own wellbeing as on several occasions I have been unable to donate as my iron levels were low.

Val and her college friendThe experience today is most efficient, as I can book an appointment at a time that suits me and it never takes more than an hour. The finger prick is just that and the donation is no worse than having a vaccination. I even get a text to inform me when and where my blood has been used and how many patients have benefitted.

(Picture: Val and her college friend)

It was most pleasing to give my blood on the same day as one of my college friends was receiving blood as part of her ongoing treatment for liver cancer in Guys Hospital.

It always leaves me with a warm feeling of doing something worthwhile.