Patrick Prest has donated blood 500 times over the past 60 years, a commitment that could well have saved up to 1500 lives.
“I started donating blood in Griffith when I was 18. One Friday afternoon, my mates and I were drinking beers at the pub, and my close mate Smitty sat down with a bandage on his arm,” 78-year-old Prest, from Bolton Point, said.
“We all made a few witty remarks until he told us that he’d donated blood at the Red Cross.
“He then suggested we stop sitting around the pub and start doing some good.
“When we got to the centre, the sister asked if we’d come to donate blood or if we’d just come to check out the nurses, and we said ‘No! We’ve come to donate blood!’”
Prest said the nurse pulled out a long, sharp needle wanting to take samples of their blood.
“One of my mates left and the other one fainted,” he laughed.
“So, it was just me left. That was 1961, and I’ve been giving blood ever since.”
Prest, who worked as a greenkeeper in Griffith, moved to Newcastle in 1994 and continued to donate blood, with his main donation centre being Lifeblood Newcastle Donor Centre in Broadmeadow.
His wife Carmel also used to donate blood but was advised to stop due to medical reasons. If she were able to continue, they would have around 1000 donations between them.
Only 3 per cent of Australians donate each year. One in three Australians will need a blood donation in their lifetime. One donation of blood can save up to three lives.
Prest, who has three children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild, said he gained personal satisfaction and pride from donating, but his family was his main motivation.
“My family are the main reason I’ve stuck at it; I would do absolutely anything for them,” Prest said.
“I have always thought that maybe one day the families that I have helped with my donations would in return help my children or grandchildren who might one day need help.
“I’ve just made donating one of my priorities, and I would encourage anybody who can donate to donate.
“It’s not just for yourself and the satisfaction of doing a good deed, but it’s for your family and the community. One day, as awful as it is to think about, it could be you or someone you know that needs a donation.”
Australia needs more than 31,000 donations every week. Plasma and platelets can be donated every fortnight and whole blood every 12 weeks.
Prest said plasma donations required a process where blood is returned and recycled through the body over five times, which over years of donating can cause scar tissue.
Due to the large number of donations that Prest has made, he can no longer donate plasma, but he said he would continue to donate whole blood for as long as he could.
Prest said it was “mind-boggling” to think that sitting in a chair for 30 to 45 minutes every few weeks could save hundreds of lives.
“I’ve met some lovely people in the centres over the years, and it’s been a good journey,” he said.
“I would do it all over again if I could.”