A Kerry teacher didn’t realise the importance of donating blood until he needed some himself, he says, as the Irish Blood Transfusion Service launches its latest campaign, ‘Missing Type’.

Steven O’Donovan, from Listowel, began donating blood in 1990, “after threatening to do it for years”.

The ITBS mobile unit would arrive twice a year, setting up camp in one of the local schools. Steven donated every year, for 24 years.

“I saw advertisements and thought ‘I must check that out’,” Steven said.

“Every time I passed by there, there always seemed to be a crowd. I had to make the conscious decision, one time, to go in. I went in on my own, and I hadn’t a clue. But once I did it, I felt like I was after doing something worthwhile. I was getting as much out of it as I was giving to it.”

In May, 2014, Steven received an award from the IBTS for donating more than 50 units of blood. But three weeks later, life took a tragic turn for the 49-year-old father-of-three.

He was riding his motorcycle, just a few minutes from his home, when tourists driving on the wrong side of the road crashed into him.

Steven landed face-down in a water-filled ditch at the side of the road, seriously injured.

Luckily, a nurse and a veterinarian happened to be passing, and they stayed with Steven until the paramedics arrived.

“They were the two best people I could have had beside me,” said Steven. “They jumped in with me and stayed with me. They looked after me until the emergency services arrived.”

Stephen was rushed to hospital in Tralee, and was later transferred to Cork, where he spent a number of weeks.

During his recovery, he received several blood transfusions.

Having the blood transfusion “was like having life pumped back into me”, said Steven.

“I could feel better getting it back in. It just made such a difference.”

He says receiving blood meant a great deal to him, and he wishes he could thank the donor.

“At the time of the transfusion, I was just glad to be getting it,” he said. “But thinking about it afterwards, I felt how privileged and lucky I am.”

One of the most devastating outcomes of the crash for Steven is that he can no longer give blood, as those who have received transfusions are banned from donating.

“That was one of the worst outcomes of the whole crash,” he said. “It was one of the most worthwhile and satisfying things I could do. It was terrible that I couldn’t give blood, because I know the value of it.”

Only 3% of the population donates blood.

The IBTS needs up to 5,000 new donors, and a number of high-profile organisations around the country have joined in the service’s campaign, ‘Missing Type’, to recruit new donors. As part of the campaign, which launched earlier this week, the Wild Atlantic Way, Croke Park, and Dublin Fire Brigade, amongst others, have deleted the letters of the blood types — A, B and O — from their signage, vehicles, and social media sites.

Every week, 3,000 blood donors are needed to provide blood to 1,000 people in need of transfusions.


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