You are sat waiting to give blood.
Perhaps you started work early this morning so you could leave in time to go to your appointment. Maybe you arranged for your young child to have their dinner with a friend so you can be there. Or maybe you have them with you; well prepped to be on their best behaviour, with the promise of a sticker and a biscuit. You most likely live a busy life and have plenty of other things you could be doing instead of donating your blood.
It might be that you regularly donate and think little of the time you put aside to do so anymore. You may be retired. You may have had nothing planned anyway. You might like seeing the familiar faces of donors who are there every time you go. But it doesn’t matter if it was easy for you to be here, because for this part of your day you have chosen to donate blood over anything else you could be doing.
However you came to be sat there, thank you.
It is the altruistic act of these people who donate blood that undoubtedly avoided an abrupt and premature end to my life.
In the absence of blood donors, I would have grown up in a small seaside town surrounded by family and friends, been a sister, and finished school. I would have had boyfriends, studied at University, gone travelling, and done my fair share of stupid things. I would have worked in a hospital, got engaged, and grown Bean inside me for nine months. I would have had the privilege of meeting her for a short time. I would have fed Bean, she would have held my finger with a prehensile grip, and I would have looked at her for no reason other than I could not stop looking at her. I would have held her as I walked the short distance round the ward with her in my arms once.
But then nothing. I would have been a past tense; remaining in my mid-twenties while everything and everyone else I knew continued to be.
I do not have the words to express my gratitude to the 28 people who at some point in time shortly before I needed blood and platelets, chose to spend their time helping someone they had never met.
Without them I would never have taken Bean home from hospital, never pushed her in buggy or played her my favourite songs. I would not have heard her laugh, or even seen a true responsive smile from her. There would have been no witnessing her walking for the first time, spurred on by the cheese she so wanted awaiting her on the sofa, and later no running on a sandy French beach together.
I would not have been there when she spoke, swam, or rode her bike for the first time. I would not have heard the little voice from the bush at the bottom of the garden exclaim she was okay having mastered pedalling with no stabilisers but with very little knowledge of braking. There would have been no holding her hand in the playground on her first day of school, no explaining the one break-time snack per child rule or that you keep your shoes on in school despite going indoors. No first school nativity and no hearing about her day before bed.
Bean would have done all of these things in my absence, but I am so fortunate to have be a part of it. The magnitude of thanks for that having been made possible will never fade. In fact, it grows with new experiences and milestones.
I am sure you will have your own reason for donating blood if you can and choose to do so. Perhaps you vowed to donate after a loved one suffered a trauma, or a friend was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe your baby needed blood when they were born prematurely and you want to be able to provide for someone else going through what you did. It might be you donate simply because it being a kind thing to do is enough of a reason.
I sometimes wonder about the people whose blood saved me; the quirks that make them who they are, what their reasons for donating were, and if they thought much about where that particular donation would go. I would like to think a part of them knows the difference they made.
Thank you to the people who mean I am here to write this, and also to anyone that can who chooses to give blood or platelets. Whoever you are and whatever your reason for donating, it really can make a lifetime of difference.