A couple of Guardian angels

GUARDIAN journalists Emma Manser and Niki Burnside decided to roll up their sleeves and give blood last week. Here, Emma shares her experience.

WITHIN 10 minutes, I will have saved three lives.

I am just an average 23-year-old. I am not medically trained — apart from the odd first aid course — and I am not especially good with a scalpel.

So how did I do it?

I did it all from the comfort of a reclining chair, with a stress ball in one hand and an orange fruit juice in the other.

Along with my co-worker Niki Burnside, I have become part of the elite group of one in 30 Australians who donate blood — and we did it all in the space of nine minutes.

Unlike some, there is no reason behind my choice to part with my blood.

I have no personal connection, no back story that has prompted me to make this decision, it just seemed like a good thing to do.

It's free and the 'glampires', as they call themselves — the travelling nurses who spend their weeks indirectly helping thousands of people around the nation — don't actually bite.

The numbers show that a single donation of blood can go on to save the lives of three people.

So a quick health check, single needle and a chance to relax in a reclining chair for half an hour of your day doesn't seem like much compared to what those who need the blood are going through.

I wasn't too nervous going in, until it came to the haemoglobin test — the classic finger prick and reportedly the worst part of the donation process, as I would agree.

We took a seat and waited for it all to begin.

As we waited, we spoke to the glampires about what we could expect.

Having done it thousands of times before, they were much calmer than Niki and I.

Apparently the mobile van takes 460ml, or about a pint, of whole blood from each donor — 10ml less than the permanent centres — and this will take about 84 days for the body to replace.

Prick goes the needle.

And then the blood begins to trickle out.

It doesn't hurt, I barely even notice it. I thought I might feel something, but nothing changes.

I sit there, reclining in my chair, squeezing the stress ball every now and then to combat my lethargic blood — the machine beeps intermittently to tell the nurse my blood is flowing too slowly — but in just nine minutes it is all over.

I have saved three lives.

As we leave 460ml lighter, it is hard not to wonder where that little pouch of blood might end up.

A pregnant mother experiencing complications? A young child being treated for cancer? The victim of a road accident?

Or perhaps someone who relies on regular blood transfusions to survive.

Although it is often thought that just one person can't do much to create change, in this case that just isn't true — you can do plenty.

I might see you in November when the blood bank returns to Swan Hill. I've already made my appointment.

To make an appointment visit donateblood.com.au or call 13 14 95.