Blood is thicker than water for Limerick father and son donors

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

FATHER and son, Jim and Michael Hickey, have donated blood over 180 times.

FATHER and son, Jim and Michael Hickey, have donated blood over 180 times.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service say the Caherconlish men have saved countless lives, but they just say it is their privilege to be able to donate. The service estimates that Jim has donated over 62 litres of blood during his lifetime.

A national campaign has started for August to encourage people to donate blood due to the traditional fall off during the month. Jim Hickey started giving blood 52 years ago.

“In those days it was a social occasion, it was pre-televison. It was some place to go at night, a crowd of us would cycle or walk over. It used be in the school or in the hall,” said Mr Hickey, who became the local organiser about 15 years ago.

Now it is held in the Millennium Centre and the farmer tries to organise the mobile unit as close to the allowed every 90 days as possible.

“I push to get four a year. We get a good turnout but we occasionally hit a bit of a blip. Our last clinic clashed with one of the European cup matches and I reckon we lost about 20 units of blood,” said the 69 year-old.

He has also noticed a shortfall in getting young people to give blood.

“It is difficult enough to get young people in and an awful lot of my generation are dropping out - they would be on medication of one type of another. Young people have so many other attractions,” said Jim, whose family have all given blood. His sisters donated; his wife Betty is approaching giving 50 times as his daughter-in-law, Anna.

Son, Michael has reached 50 times and received a gold pen. Jim’s other children - Anne and Noreen - all donate too.

For giving blood 100 times Jim received a porcelain pelican. He’s at 131 times but there are no more prizes as it is so rare to reach that mark!

But Jim says it is not about tokens or praise, it is about helping others.

“I feel privileged to be able to donate and to have my own health. Some people would like to be able to do it but can’t. When you see somebody in the hospice and the lift that a transfusion gives them - I know it is only a temporary lift but it puts new life back in to their veins.

“I gave it happy in the knowledge that it is going to help someone. It is a privilege to help somebody less fortunate than yourself,” said Jim.

For those scared of needles he says it just a little jab and the next morning he wouldn’t know from which arm the blood was taken. Has he any plans to stop?

“I’ll keep giving it while I can,” smiles Jim. For the 15 years he has been organiser he has been putting notices in the Caherconlish notes. The next mobile unit is in October.

Aileen Browne, Mid-West area manager of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, says Jim and Michael have saved many lives.

“Every unit of blood has the potential of being used on three patients,” said Aileen, who is appealing for Limerick people to give blood as it falls in August.

“People go on holidays, children are off school, people are out of their normal routines. The demand doesn’t drop, this Bank Holiday weekend hospitals will order more blood,” said Aileen.

The next clinics in Limerick are next Tuesday, August 7 in the Greenhills from 6 to 9pm and Wednesday, August 8 in the Kilmurry Lodge from 6 to 9pm.