Life | 2 weeks ago
Blood ties: We talk to a father and daughter about a family tradition of donating blood
Have you given blood?

Brought to you by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Carrying on a fine tradition of donations.

When the National Wax Museum Plus and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) recently joined up to encourage people to give blood, they drafted in the museum’s Dracula to help. The bloodsucker visited various locations across Dublin and the public was asked to guess where he was, using the hashtag #WheresDrac.

The competition was all part of the drive to encourage people to give blood. It's a cause that's close to the heart of the museum’s marketing manager, Laoise Keaveney, thanks to a longstanding family tradition. Laoise’s father John has given blood 94 times and Laoise has followed in her father’s footsteps by giving blood regularly. Here are their donor stories.

Laoise Keaveney

“I’ve given blood since I was 18 and I come from a family of blood donors,” explains Laoise. “My father is a retired school teacher. He reached 94 pints of blood, which is quite rare.”

Unfortunately, illness meant that John had to stop giving blood but Laoise has continued the family tradition. Her sister was also a regular donor. Trips to the blood clinic with John were a consistent feature of growing up in the Keaveney household.

“One of my earliest memories was going into town when I was five or six and watching him give blood," recalls Laoise. "He brought me along ever since I was a child and he drilled into me from the start that it’s important to give blood.”

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The encouragement to give blood came from both her parents, Lucy and John. The IBTS is asking existing donors to encourage family or friends to get on board, with every donation needed.

“From my own experience, it was what my Dad did and so I’d recommend anyone to do it,” says Laoise. “I wouldn’t donate as regularly as my Dad did but I’ve given blood about 10 to 15 times to date and I’m 29.”

So would she like to one day surpass her father’s milestone of 94 pints?

“Yes, I’d love to get to 100,” admits Laoise. “I’m just very proud of Dad for getting to 94.”

John Keaveney

Very few people manage 100 donations in their lifetime. For John Keaveney, he was well on the way to hitting this target when he was diagnosed with cancer. Although he recovered, it meant he could no longer give blood.

It brought an end to a habit that started 50 years ago when he was a student at St Patrick’s College.

“IBTS came in to ask the student body to give blood,” recalls John. “I’d have been maybe 18 or 19 years of age and we all gave blood. I happened to be O Negative, which is the universal donor, meaning that my blood can be used by any patient. They said that only 8% of the population was O Negative. They didn’t say that I had to do my duty or anything but I felt more of an onus on me to donate.”

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So began a lifetime of giving blood and, as he got older, he got into a habit of donating every three months. He never lost sight of the reasons why it was important and he wasn’t shy about recommending it to family and friends.

“I would always have encouraged other people to give blood. It was kind of a routine as far as I was concerned. I felt a duty to do it and it obviously saves people’s lives.”

Missing out on the chance to hit 100 donations was disappointing for the veteran donor. He found out that he was no longer eligible to donate when he turned up for his 95th donation.

“I just felt a little bit disappointed that I was six away from the 100!” admits John. “I’d 94 donations done but I ended up getting cancer and, once you get cancer, they are not able to take your blood anymore. It’s very rare that anyone gets to the 100.”

Although he missed out on the elusive 100th donation, he was presented with an honorary award on Friday night to mark his contribution over the years. Plus, there’s still the chance for his daughter to reach the milestone for the family. He says he wouldn’t put any pressure on her but believes it’s important for everyone to give blood as much as they can.

“I would encourage any young person to do it," says John. "I always say that giving blood is good. Still, kids are young, footloose and fancy-free and you have to remember that it’s voluntary! I’d encourage people to support the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and give blood regularly.”

3,000 blood donations are needed each week and one in four of us will need a blood transfusion in our lives. But only 3% of the eligible population give blood. In a typical year, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service receives 1.3 donations per donor per year so it’s vital to encourage your friends, family or work colleagues to join you if you are donating.

For more information or to see if you're eligible to donate, check out the website

Brought to you by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

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