PHOTO GALLERY: Inside the Lismore Blood Bank
BEING a lifesaver doesn't mean you need any special knowledge, qualifications or a uniform.
In fact it's so easy you can do it lying down.
This is the message the Australian Red Cross Blood Service in Bounty St, Lismore, gave the Northern Star when we visited them to see what goes on when you donate and how your gift is used to save lives, no matter your blood type.
At 7am on Tuesday the doors are open and at the ARBS front desk, Helen Youngberry is on the reception duty, her cheerful greetings to repeat offenders and first-timers indicate you are an good hands.
One of 14 staff comprising a team of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and administrators, Helen is known for her bright smile.
In between welcoming donor, handing out forms and liaising with the medical staff, Helen said often more men than women who need some reassurance.
"But we also have more men than women donating," she said.
"And the males tend to donate more regularly."
Helen said she loves her job and is quick to encourage people to come along and be part of something amazing.
"Giving blood or plasma on a regular basis is a simple way of helping others and it really can make a difference in saving someone's life," she said.
She said no matter how common or rare your blood type, they were welcome, as blood is surprisingly versatile and can be made into 22 different medical treatments.
Once a donor is signed in, each time they donate they complete the required medical form to ensure they are OK to make a donation.
To give blood you must usually be 16-70 years old, weigh 50kg or more and be fit and healthy.
Recent tattoos, illness, travel or residence in certain countries, sexual health risks or exposure to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow Disease) prevents people from donating, but it's always worth checking in case conditions have changed.
At 8.10am, Caniaba resident Trevor Pethers, 64, has completed his interview and blood check and is ready to lie down, relax and make his 43rd donation.
By 8.30am Trevor is settling into his recliner as RN Amy Shiels hooks him up.
Trevor said he likes the idea he can make a positive difference through donating blood or plasma.
"I feel like I'm helping someone," he said.
"I come in whenever I can and go to work afterwards."
In the next couch is Southern Cross University environmental science student Alice Wood, who is chatting with nurse Jamie Castle about where her blood will be used.
The 24-year old is making her second O+ blood donation.
Alice said she's inspired by the large photographs on the wall which show real people and the difference a donation made to them.
"I find them inspiring and it's nice to know you are helping," she said.
Meanwhile, further down the ward, veteran donor Bob Preston who is O+, and at 73 years, is making his 339th contribution.
As the bag containing his blood fills, it is gently rocked on a machine to help preserve cells and plasma.
The cheerful Coorabell resident has been giving the red stuff since he was a teenager.
"I started off in Sydney donating when I was 18 years old," he said.
"Now I give plasma every two weeks."
Also in the ward being lifesavers are NSW Fire & Rescue officer Ian Hunter, landscaper David Kemp and George Paschkow.
In between checking donors, the centre is a quiet hive of activity with a calm sense of doing an important job.
At 9.42am Trevor is in the adjacent cafe area where volunteer Sue Meik offers him some refreshments including milkshakes, savoury snacks, cake, biscuits, fruit, water and candy to refuel him before he goes to work.
Already his blood is in the process of being packaged up and sent to one of four Australian Red Cross processing plants in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
"They make the best milkshakes in the world," Trevor said.
On the way out, he stops by to make his next appointment with Helen.
As staff call out their farewells, Trevor leaves.
Another lifesaving mission accomplished.