For the past 44-years Melvin Johnston has been one of Scotland’s most dedicated blood-givers.
He has travelled thousands of miles to make donations, with neither distance nor work commitments preventing him from doing his bit.
Mr Johnston, from Orkney, first donated blood in Edinburgh in February, 1976, and now, more than four decades later, is ready to give blood for the 100th time.
Following that first time, he moved to Aberdeen and began to donate seriously, receiving a “bronze” badge for giving ten donations.
His work as a quantity surveyor took him across the globe and he gave blood in places such as Dubai, Qatar, London and Glasgow.
An old hand at the process, Mr Johnston said it is now notably easier than it used to be.
He said: “There have been numerous changes. When I started donating in UK, a sample would be taken from my ear lobe and there were long queues – though the questions on the forms were less intrusive.
“Now, the sample is always from my thumb and there are no queues as you book appointment online.
“There are so many questions about personal lifestyle on the forms, but also so much more information and advice for donors.
“You are now very much encouraged to drink water at the centre before donating and, as always, have a non-alcoholic beverage before leaving the premises.”
Mr Johnston said the efforts of donors across the country were vital to the NHS and has urged more people to join him.
“Many people regularly require transfusions and many need blood following accidents and during surgery,” he said.
“But only a small minority of the population – about 6% – take the time to donate. The service struggles to cope with the demand for blood.”
The only years he fell short of donating was while working as a quantity surveyor in Libya, Portugal and Kuwait – where there were no opportunities to donate.
In April 1988 he relocated to Orkney and has continued to give generously ever since, frequently jumping aboard the ferry to give blood in Inverness.
He said: “Many more people could donate but don’t for numerous reasons: the unknown, fear of needles, apathy, ‘what’s in it for me?’.
“I would say to people who haven’t ever given blood, pop in to a donor centre next time you’re passing or in the vicinity and give less than an hour of your time to perhaps help save a life.
“The old slogan ‘I’m proud to be a blood donor’ still rings true.
“After donating I do feel good and proud to have helped a stranger.
“It hasn’t cost me anything, it didn’t hurt and it took less than an hour.
“I got tea and biscuits and chatted with like-minded people,and my body is now busy replacing that gifted with some fresh stuff.”
Mr Johnston will donate for the 100th time on February 7, 44 years after he first donated.
Among Mr Johnston’s most notable list of donations are:
- 1st donation: Made in Edinburgh in February, 1976.
- 2nd donation: Given while visiting friends in Insch, Aberdeenshire in August, 1976.
- Received first (bronze) badge after giving 10 donations, in January, 1979.
- Received second (silver) badge after giving 25th donation in Edinburgh in November, 1989.
- Gave 50th donation in Aberdeen in December 2002 and received third (gold) badge while travelling back from the Housing Associations’ Development Conference.
- Gave 55th donation in Stonehaven on January 23, 2005, while on Orkney Dons trip to Pittodrie. The Aberdeen Donor Centre was closed so he took the return trip by train to enable him to meet a mobile unit.
- Received gifts at the annual Donor Awards Ceremony in Qatar in 2014, one of only two Westerners amongst 396 participants.
- Recipient of fourth (crystal) award and badge after giving 75 times, having recommenced donating in the UK.
- Awarded ‘Give Blood’ t-shirt by staff in Inverness when gifting 99th donation on November 7 this year.
- Due to donate for the 100th time on February 7, 2020 – 44 years and 3 days after starting campaign.
How you can help
More than 440 blood donors are needed every day to keep stocks at a safe level, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) has said.
The organisation tries to keep between a five and seven-day supply of each of the eight blood groups, which could be needed for treating people after emergencies including car crashes and births.
With donor centres open on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and Hogmanay, it is urging new and existing donors to come forward and ensure the country’s hospitals remain well-stocked over the coming weeks.
Lynne Willdigg, SNBTS associate director of donor and transport services, said: “Our focus as a service is to ensure we consistently meet clinical demand over the festive period and to this end we work closely with hospitals to forecast that demand.
“This also means we can now provide donors with a greater level of detail about how their donation is needed.”
She added: “For example, many emergency situations require O Negative, as this is the only blood group that can safely be given to everyone in an emergency situation.
“We must welcome 63 O Negative donors every day in Scotland during December to ensure supplies of this critical group remain at safe levels.
“O Positive is Scotland’s most common blood group, so we must welcome 172 people with this blood group every day.”
To find out where you can give blood, visit www.scotblood.co.uk.