A couple of months ago, writing in this same slot, my colleague David Gaffney considered what it might feel like to kill someone (he was referring to motorists causing fatal accidents by using their mobile phone at the wheel, before you start to worry about his state of mind).
As David said in his piece, being directly responsible for extinguishing someone’s life – even accidentally – would be a terrible burden; one I hope none of us will ever have to carry.
In a bid to be more positive, as well as pushing the issue I want to highlight, let’s flip this around and ask instead what it might be like to save a life.
The thing is, it’s actually very easy to find out how that feels. In exchange for approximately one hour of your time every 12 weeks, you can help save lives on an ongoing basis. Simply by parting with a pint of your blood – the components of which can be used to treat more than one patient.
It’s probably not as adrenalin filled as hauling someone from the burning wreckage of a car crash (perhaps caused by the use of a mobile phone whilst driving, to reinforce a point) or performing CPR. And you’ll never meet or even know the name of the person who benefitted from your actions. But donating blood does make a difference.
Statistically, one in four of us will need to receive blood at some point in our lives. Yet just four per cent of eligible donors in the UK make the relatively small commitment of regularly giving blood.
Imagine that you, or perhaps a loved one, were to suffer a serious accident that resulted in a significant loss of blood. I suspect most would take for granted that the NHS could provide the necessary treatment. And, of course, care would be administered by highly trained medical professionals in well-equipped facilities. But there is no artificially produced substance which mimics all the same functions as blood. Not yet anyway. Without ordinary people stepping up for the sake of others, stocks would run out and a lifesaving blood transfusion might not be available.
In England alone, 6,000 blood donations are required every day to meet the needs of hospitals and patients. Further to this, approximately 200,000 new donors are needed annually to replace those on the register who are no longer able to give blood.
My own view is that if I would be willing accept blood for myself or on behalf of a loved one in the event of an accident or illness, I should be willing to donate blood too, as long as I am able. We can’t all assume someone else will do it, and blood banks don’t replenish themselves.
By becoming a donor, you might help a child overcome a life-threatening condition and go on to live a full and happy life. Or contribute towards a father surviving an accident, who can go on to walk his daughter down the aisle and later become a grandfather.
It’s even good for your own health. Before giving blood, a nurse conducts a mini health check, and your blood is tested for a multitude of viruses afterwards.
So, if you are able to, I would urge you to consider becoming someone’s hero and give blood as regularly as possible. They won’t give you a cape. But you will get a small sense of pride. And a Tunnock’s teacake.