Melvin Williams remembers vividly how distressed a former coworker was when she approached him, back in 1985, to donate blood on behalf of her sister, who was in hospital preparing for surgery.
As he became aware of her many unsuccessful attempts to find a donor, he consented without hesitation.
“The situation was so touching, it simply made me want to help. I don’t like to see people suffer. When someone is sick, I’ll do anything to help,” Melvin related.
The next day he turned up at the then Blood Bank, now the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), to make his donation.
“Although it was my first time donating blood, I did not have any reservations,” he related. “The entire process took about 15 minutes. My blood pressure was taken and my finger pricked to determine my blood count prior to making the donation. The Blood Bank staff members were very reassuring and that calmed my nerves.”
A facility officer at The Jamaica National Group, Melvin pointed out that he has never turned down a request to donate blood.
“I have donated approximately 20 times, mostly to persons I don’t know. It’s always a good feeling knowing that I am able to contribute to saving a life, each time. And, I will continue to donate blood until I die. I also encourage everyone to donate, because you can never tell if one day you may be in need of blood.”
He explained that as part of his preparation to give blood, he has a substantial meal, which is a requirement of the National Blood Transfusion Service.
Igol Allen, Blood Donor Organiser at the NBTS, commends Melvin for his commitment to saving lives.
“It is persons, such as Melvin, who keep the NBTS afloat and people alive,” he said. “He is not only a blood donor, but a real caring and passionate Jamaican.”
“Blood is an essential medicine that is needed in hospitals, daily. The 450 mls of blood that is taken each time, can save up to three lives. There is no other substitute for blood, hence the need for persons to donate.”
Mr Allen pointed out that that there are personal benefits for persons who give blood.
“Blood donors have a reduced risk of some cancers and coronary disease, especially males, thus making them healthier.”
He stressed that if only two percent of the population could commit to donate once per year, the NBTS would operate more effectively.
“We need 50 to 60,000 units of blood annually; however, we have only been able to collect about half of that amount,” he disclosed.
Persons who weigh more than 50 kilograms and are between 16 and 60 years old can donate blood. However, persons who are not yet seventeen years old will require parental consent.
Blood donations can be made at the NBTS Headquarters at 21 Slipe Road, Kingston. Other collection centres, including their contact information and opening times, can be obtained from the NBTS website at: http://nbts.gov.jm