Why finally becoming a blood donor means so much to this Dad
Matthew sometimes feels bad that he didn’t give much thought to donating blood until someone he knew needed it.
“I left the UK when I was 23 or 24, and when I think back to who I was then, I was clueless,” said Matthew. “To be honest, until about a year ago, I hadn’t tried to donate.”
Matthew first investigated donating blood when his then 4-year-old son, Jacob, was diagnosed with leukaemia at the end of 2021 and needed blood transfusions to survive. As a UK expat, Matthew was disappointed he couldn’t donate blood at that time, so he became one of blood donation’s biggest advocates.
Of course, since eligibility changed in July 2022, Matthew has become a donor too — without missing a beat when it comes to spreading the word.
“My eyes have been opened to this whole world of blood, bone marrow, transfusions and you kick yourself for not being aware. Donating blood is such a simple thing to do,” he said.
Matthew’s son Jacob has had 9 blood transfusions in 18 months, and he’ll go on needing them for a while yet.
“To put it simply, Jacob and all the other children would not get through the treatment without regular blood transfusions,” said Matthew.
“Unfortunately, chemotherapy takes out a lot of the good cells as well as the cancer cells and reduces the levels of haemoglobin, neutrophils, white cells and platelets in the blood (among other things). After periods of chemo, Jacob requires blood transfusions to top these levels up and help keep his immune system at a functioning level."
Now 5, Jacob is thankfully nearing the end of his chemotherapy journey, however it’s likely he’ll still need more blood transfusions to raise his immunity levels. It’s a process Matthew and his family have become familiar with, but watching the transfusion never loses its impact.
Remembering Jacob’s first blood transfusion, Matthew said, “So many things went through my head, it was one of those moments throughout this process that will be etched in my memory forever. I remember vividly just staring at this bag of blood going into my son with feelings of disbelief. That disbelief soon turned to gratitude and all I could think was, ‘I wish I knew whose blood that was so I could thank them; I wish they could see that they are helping save my son's life; I wish they could know the impact they are having on my family.’”
Since July, Lifeblood has welcomed thousands of donors who had previously been deferred for living in the UK between 1980 and 1996. As you might expect Matthew, was one of our keenest, snagging a spot in a donor chair on the first day he became eligible.
Now Matthew and his family are drumming up support among their expat community, ensuring their friends know they’re now eligible to donate blood, and helping them see the life-changing impact their donation can have.
“Before Jacob was diagnosed with leukaemia I always thought of blood transfusions in terms of trauma — car accidents, loss of blood, etc. My eyes have now been opened to this world of blood transfusions where all the recipients I see are small children fighting cancer — babies, toddlers, primary school age children — and by donating blood you are literally helping to save their lives,” said Matthew.
“In the process you are having such an impact on the parents, siblings, families and friends of these children. We will be forever grateful, and indebted, to those who have donated blood to help Jacob get through this.”
“Finally, the current conditions with COVID, a terrible flu season, and other factors like extreme weather, have meant that blood supply is short at the moment. We Brits have a real opportunity to make a difference with this change in policy and give back to a country that has offered us all so much.”
If you’re one of those eager blood donors who spent time in the UK and now call Australia home, it’s a great time to join the thousands of new blood donors who are helping save lives like Jacob’s every day.