Earlier this year, I made my 50th blood donation. I thought this was quite an achievement – the Blood Bank gave me a little badge and a few weeks later I got a certificate in the mail. Then I got an invitation to a Red Cross event at Parliament House.

So I went along, feeling pretty good about myself. When I got there, the woman at the desk ticked my name off a list of people who’d made 50 donations. But I couldn’t help noticing she also had lists for 100 donations, and 150, and a list of bone marrow donors. And then during the morning tea, I saw a few people with stickers saying 200 donations, and even one that said 350. So I started to feel that my 50 donations weren’t that impressive after all. (Though I give whole blood donations, which you can only do 4 times a year. Plasma donations – also very much needed – can be done every two weeks. But by any reckoning, 350 is a LOT of visits to the blood bank.)

Then the presentations started. There was a general welcome, and a talk about how important blood donation is, and the fact that only 1 in 30 Australians is a blood donor (to which I’m surely not the only one who thought ‘preaching to the converted’). Then there was a short talk by a man whose little boy’s life had been saved by blood donations (I forget exactly what he had, but I think it was cancer of some kind). They called out by name all the people who had made 50 donations, so I and a huge number of other people went up, and received a gift (presented by the little boy). Then they called up the people who had made 75 donations, then 100, 150, 200, 250, 300. (300 donations is a donation every fortnight, for a minimum of 11 years!) Based on the man I’d seen earlier, I knew they were going to go to 350, and after that they did 400. I was pretty sure they’d stop then, but no … 450, 500, 550. Then they called up two people who had given 700 donations each.

After that, there was a brief talk by a 13 year old girl who had been ill with something at age 2, and then at 12 was diagnosed with leukaemia. She had received over 40 blood donations, plus a bone marrow transplant. She and her mother both spoke very movingly. The bone marrow donors were then called up and received gifts.

Finally, they called up a man who has made 854 donations. 854!!! He (and also one of the 700 people) has been in the RH program (where they collect Rh negative blood, to be used in a drug that protects babies from rhesus disease) since the 1960s. His plasma has saved the life of 2.5 MILLION babies.

So by the end, while I still felt pretty good about my 50 donations, I was completely overwhelmed by the total awesomeness of the other people. Just normal, everyday people, who are trekking off, year in, year out, sometimes every fortnight, to help save the lives of people they will never know. I now feel slightly guilty that I had to skip my last donation, but the event has inspired me with fresh enthusiasm for the whole process.