I have always been aware of the privilege I have. Whilst I’m not well-off, nor am I financially comfortable, I’m not poor. I have health issues, but these are managed and non life-threatening, and I’m not chronically unwell to the degree that some others are. I’m lucky, very lucky, and with this awareness of the fairly good hand I have been dealt, my parents instilled in me from a young age a feeling of wanting to help others where I can. Of balancing out the take, take, take of life with some give, give, give.
Since I became an adult, started earning my own money and running my own home, I’ve donated money where I can, I’ve taken clothes to the charity shop, I’ve popped items into the food bank collection points, and raised money taking part in sponsored events, but in recent years I came to the realisation that there was so much more I could do. Money and awareness is all well and good, but there was even more I could give – parts of myself that I don’t need.
Over the course of time I registered with a few different donor organisations and waited for the day a letter would fall on my doormat or my phone would ring and I’d be told somebody needed me, but, that time never came.
Earlier on this year – as you will know if you’re a regular around these parts – I had Cancer. Melanoma to be precise. I was lucky and it was caught early, meaning two procedures were all it took to cut that bastard out of me and I could get on with my life. Albeit on two slightly shaky legs.
But, the lasting legacy of that evil little disease making its home inside my body (apart from the three baddass scars) was that I’m no longer allowed to be a donor. I’m no longer considered fair game unless it’s for donating my organs – I’m good for a thorough harvesting once I shuffle off this mortal plain, but not before.
To be honest, when I found out I could no longer stay on the registers, I was gutted. A totally selfish reaction, perhaps, but it always felt like it was my chance to give something back and to help someone who might need it. I may have always given what I can to charity in terms of monetary donations, but to be able to offer something more, something tangible that could change or even save a life, felt like something so special. To not have the option to do that anymore left me feeling thoroughly dejected.
I guess Phoebe on Friends was right – there is no such thing as a selfless good deed.
But then I realised, I might not be able to donate bits of me to those who needed them more, but I can do the next best thing and tell everyone else about these registers in the hope that a few more people might sign up!
One thing I have to say though, before anything else, is that before you register to donate anything make sure you do your research. Some of the ways you can donate may affect your own health, may cause pain or may even cause emotional trauma. Be absolutely 100% sure before you take the plunge.
Donate Your Blood
Donating blood is perhaps the most popular way of giving a little of yourself to benefit others, and with the need for over 6000 donations every day to treat people in need, the more the merrier when it comes to offering up some of the red stuff!
Blood is needed for a whole range of situations, helping those that have been in accidents, in surgery, for anaemia, cancer and blood disorders, and for blood loss after childbirth.
With it being in such high demand, they are always looking for people to donate. You can find out more on the NHS Blood Donor website.
Stem Cells and Bone Marrow
If you’re aged 16-30 and in good health you can register with Anthony Nolan to be retained on their system as a donor for life-saving stem cell transplantation to save the life of a person with blood cancer or a blood disorder.
Once applying to Anthony Nolan, they send you a kit through the post with which you provide them a swab of the inside of your mouth. They then test this and add you to the register, until such a time as a patient who is a genetic match for you needs your help.
There are a couple of different ways you can have your stem cells transplanted, and it’s not guaranteed that you will ever be called upon.
If you’re over the age of 30 and outside of the Anthony Nolan target age bracket, don’t worry, you can register with DKMS for exactly the same thing.
It’s not unusual for a person to have a complete overhaul of their image, cutting off their long, flowing locks to a shorter ‘do, but did you know you can donate your unwanted hair rather than letting it fall to the salon floor?
Numerous people across the world are affected by hair loss due to illness, and when making wigs, there’s little substitute for human hair when it comes to getting a natural look and feel.
There are a few charities that you can donate to, some of which can be found on the Cancer Research website. Generally, they need at least 7-inches in length as a fair amount of length is lost in the weaving process.
I donated the hair from my barnet overhaul last year to The Little Princess Trust and it feels great to know that a child going through something as traumatic as fighting Cancer could be wearing a wig made out of my donation – one less thing for them to worry about when they already have the cares of the world on their little shoulders.
A bit of a niche donation point, granted, as it’s not something a lot of us are going to be able to do, however, it is something that is incredibly important but not hugely advertised.
Every day premature and sick babies are born that are in need of milk, but their mothers are not always able to feed them. This is where UKAMB steps in. Once you register your interest in becoming a donor, they send you an information pack and a blood test sheet which you can take to your local doctor, for a health check. If accepted on to the programme, UKAMB will send you breast milk bottles which, once filled, you can take to your local bank where they will be distributed to the babies that need them.
The early days of life are so crucial, what an incredible way to be able to make a difference.
Becoming an egg or sperm donor is a decision not to be taken lightly. It is the opportunity to change a person’s world, potentially enabling them to have a child when they may otherwise have lost hope, but there is an element of self-care that needs to be dealt with to ensure you are making the best decision for you.
I’m not going to give too much advice or information on this one as I think it’s such a huge subject matter that I’m definitely not going to attempt to discuss it on here, but you can find out more on the NGDT website and I would suggest discussing with your GP too before you take any steps. It really is a gift like no other, but in the same respect, it’s a decision like no other too.
Donating your organs is one of the most incredible gifts you can give a person, and a way in which you can continue to give when your days have ended. I registered as an organ donor a few years ago, but it was a decision that I struggled with for some time before I officially made the steps to put my name on the list.
There are some parts of your body you can donate whilst you’re still alive – kidney, liver, bone and some tissue – but the majority of your bits and pieces will be harvested after you’ve taken your last breath.
When registering, you can say if there are certain things you don’t want to donate (not everyone wants to give away every part of them) but no matter what you decide to give, it’s important you tell your loved ones so that they can inform the hospital of your wishes should the time come and so it won’t come as a shock to them as and when the time comes.
You can find out more about what being an organ donor entails on the NHS Organ Donation website.
Donate Your Body To Science
It all sounds a little Frankenstein and it causes most of us to shudder, but without people donating their bodies to science, our knowledge of these fleshy vessels we use to wander around the earth would be so much smaller!
If this is something that interests you, you can take a look at the Human Tissue Authority website where you can get all the information you need.
Donating parts of yourself, whether it be blood, stem cells, milk or the whole kit-and-caboodle isn’t for everyone, but if any of these sound like something you might like to do in order to give back a little to society, take a look at the links provided.
As I said earlier in this post, it’s important to do your research before making any decisions as not all of these will be suitable for all people, but hopefully this post has given you a few ideas about ways that you can make a difference if you want to do more than donate your pennies.
Regardless of what you decide, remember, it’s not how much we give that matters, but how much love we put into giving.