A tragedy changed Janine McMahon’s life.
But it was for the better.
‘After a multiple vehicle accident near my home, in Victoria, I responded to the call-out for blood,’ she says. ‘I’d never donated blood before and was a little anxious as I didn’t know what to expect.
‘The nurses were wonderful; caring and reassuring as they explained the procedure.’
From that day on, more than 30 years ago, she became a regular blood donor.
Now an enrolled nurse herself, Janine works for Aspen Medical and often reflects on that life-changing moment. It made a big difference to her life and potentially saved someone else’s.
She’s passionate about the benefits of blood donation and is keen to spread this message. ‘For me, it’s about paying it forward and helping someone who can’t help themself.
‘That someone may be your children or grandchildren. Recently my father was helped by someone who gave their time and blood.’
Janine is behind the Aspen Medical Blood Donation Drive. Running from 1 April to 30 May, this is a competition between the Corporate and Clinical teams to see which team can donate the most to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.
But there’s a serious side behind the light-hearted rivalry. There’s simply not enough blood donated. We need three donations every minute in Australia to keep up with demand.
This donated blood, then separated into red blood cells, plasma and platelets, is used to treat many conditions, including cancer and blood diseases, anaemia, and trauma victims.
‘I’d urge everyone who can, to donate a few minutes of their time and a unit of blood,’ says Janine. ‘That 470 ml is 8 percent of your blood volume and your body replaces it within 24 to 48 hours.
Breastfeeding mothers can also donate excess breast milk to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.
Now living in South Australia, just outside of Adelaide, Janine is a clinical team member who regularly travels to rural and remote locations interstate for short deployments as needed. ‘I’ve worked as far north as Mornington Island in Queensland, as far west as Albany in Western Australia, and to Hawkesbury in New South Wales.
‘Depending on the outlying location, there may be pop-up clinics or buses that come to community centres where people can donate blood.’
She also volunteers in other ways, for the Duke of Edinburgh and Scouting awards and as a family history research consultant.
‘Volunteering gives me a sense of belonging and I contribute to the things I believe in,’ she says. ‘I believe in the youth of Australia and helping to make them into the leaders of tomorrow.
‘I love helping people find their past, the roots of their family, so they can find where they fit in.’
Volunteering brings with it great personal as well as work benefits.
‘If every single volunteer stopped, Australia would fall on its head.
‘The CWA (Country Women’s Association) are known lovingly for their cakes and scones but they do much more than that. They’re there for floods, fires, and storms; providing food, clothing and shelter.
Says Janine, ‘When I’m volunteering, my mental health improves as the focus is not on me but on other people. I’m socialising, meeting more people and being active, rather than sitting in front of a TV feeling miserable.
‘When I’m helping others, I have a purpose.
‘Volunteering gives you tenacity and commitment. Those are valuable skills. You can also gain recognised qualifications while volunteering, such as certificates in project management. All of these can be great assets in your workplace.
Janine thinks people can underestimate the importance of volunteering. ‘Volunteering combats loneliness and strengthens the ties we have with each other.
‘It brings individuals and households together to create a community.
‘To me, one of the best things about donating blood is when I receive a text message to tell me my blood has been sent to someone to use in their treatment or survival.
‘That’s truly liquid gold.’
For those between the ages of 18 and 75 that are able to donate to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, they may donate whole red blood cells so every 12 weeks. That’s just four times a year. Or they may be able to donate platelets and plasma every two to three weeks.
‘Lifeblood will do a call-out over holiday time; Easter, long weekends, Christmas.’
Just as she did, so many years ago, Janine would encourage everyone to heed that call.
‘You’re not just giving blood, you may be giving someone back their life.’