Waikanae’s Blood Donor Approaches a Decisive Moment

Henry Yee with his blood donor card and records. Photo / David Haxton

Henry Yee is fast approaching his 300th blood donation.

The Waikanae man, who ticked off his 297th donation, will soon join a select group.

“There are only about 10 people in the Wellington area who have given blood 300 times or more,” Yee said.

Yee became a blood donor in the early 1970s while working for the Customs Service in Wellington.

“Since then I donated whole blood until 2011, then they [New Zealand Blood Service] asked me to donate blood platelets, which I continued to do.

“The platelet donation takes about an hour and a half each time and you can do it every two to three weeks.

“Whole blood donation takes less time, but you can only do it every three months or so.”

Yee, who has blood type A+, said donating blood was important to him and encouraged others to consider becoming a donor.

“It’s about helping other people who are going through various treatments and need blood.”

Yee has always donated blood at the Wellington Donor Center in Newtown.

It’s a simple process where he sits in a chair before a nurse inserts a needle into his left arm to draw blood.

Sometimes a nurse gives him an iPad so he can play Spiderman or Solitaire games to pass the time.

Then he can have a hot drink and some cookies before heading home.

Yee said donating blood is also “a good way to keep tabs on your health” due to pulse, hemoglobin, blood pressure and blood tests.

He also enjoyed the limited edition art prints he received from the NZ Blood Service after donating blood at various other milestones. It has four engravings.

Yee, who is approaching 70, was keen to continue donating.

Donors who have donated within the past two years can donate until age 75.

These donors may also be eligible to continue donating until the age of 81, subject to clearance by the NZ Blood Service (NZBS) doctor.

Meanwhile, the service needs more A+ donors to donate after a massive surge in demand, adding further pressure to already depleted national stocks struggling in Omicron’s wake.

In recent days, the demand for A+ has increased by 19% compared to the average, with the overall demand for blood increasing by 13%.

“We carefully manage inventory levels to ensure that we collect enough of each blood type relative to expected demand,” Asuka Burge said of the service.

“High usage events are planned, but our ability to meet demand is being strained.

“We have just had three emergency surgeries which required 124 units of A+ blood between them (on top of normal demand), and therefore we are in dire need of stockpiling A+ blood.

“This equates to 124 individual donor donations being used over a very short period of time – and this has seriously depleted our stocks of A+ blood.

“We need healthy and eligible people to book appointments, to ensure we can continue to have enough supply to meet demand.

“Every donation is vital, and we rely on your donations.”

Fast facts:

• A blood donation can save up to three lives.
• Every 18 minutes in New Zealand someone needs blood or blood products.
• Every day, 83 Kiwis will need vital blood and plasma.
• Nationally, the NZBS needs to collect over 4,000 donations every week to keep up with the demand.
• Each year the NZBS needs over 30,000 new donors to ensure it can continue to meet current demand.
•Less than 4% of New Zealanders roll up their sleeves to donate blood or plasma.

Donation Info:

• To make an appointment to donate, visit nzblood.co.nz, download the app, call 0800 448 325.
• New donors are encouraged to check if they are eligible on nzblood.co.nz and then make an appointment to donate. Those who have already been told they cannot donate blood due to age or a medical condition are also advised to check the updated NZBS Donor Eligibility Criteria as they may now be eligible for donate blood following the changes last November.
• Blood donations only take an hour of your time, it’s simple to book through the NZ Blood Donor app, and – once you’ve donated – you’ll be able to see your blood type on the app.
• Donors are encouraged to make an appointment to make a donation, rather than just showing up.
• Appointments help manage social distancing and the flow of people into donor centers at all times and allow the NZBS to forecast supply, ensuring it collects enough blood groups and blood products .

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