112-time blood donor
I became vegetarian after briefly working for a slaughterhouse. When I applied for the job I thought I’d just be driving the van, but they didn't tell me that I would have to help with the slaughter in between deliveries. I left after almost three weeks. The cruelty I saw was so unnecessary, and I just didn’t want anything more to do with it.
I was vegetarian for about ten years before I made the connection between dairy and eggs. I started to realise that I was still contributing to animal cruelty and harming my own health by still consuming them. But I didn’t know how to be vegan – there was no real Internet access back then. The only support available at the time was The Vegan Society, so I wrote a few letters asking about nutrition, and vitamin B12 etc, and received really helpful replies in return. Then I made my New Year Resolution to become vegan, and that was that.
I’ve always been a keen cyclist and runner, but on cold or damp days, exercising outside used to set off my asthma. I’d really start wheezing after around half an hour, so I used an inhaler. After a few months of being vegan, I realised that I just didn’t need it anymore. I haven’t used or needed an inhaler since early 1993.
In that time, my stamina has also improved. I have never been a natural runner – more of a plodder really. I used to run a couple of miles and I thought that was my limit. But since becoming vegan I’ve run the London Marathon twice, in 2002 and 2016.
I first donated blood about six months after becoming vegetarian. I was in the St John Ambulance Brigade at the time and used to make the tea at local blood-donor sessions. I lived in New Zealand for a while, but they wouldn’t take my blood there because in England we had the BSE crisis (mad cow disease) – even though I had not eaten any meat since 1981.
I’ve donated blood 112 times so far with no problems. When you donate, your blood is tested and the iron levels checked. So you can definitely meet the requirements on a healthy vegan diet.
It is a privilege and an honour to be able to donate blood to help others. If you are able to do something to help someone in their hour of need then why wouldn't you? As a vegan I have compassion for all animals and for people too, and as a nurse I have seen first-hand how vital it is to have a good supply of blood in an emergency, and for treatment in some chronic medical conditions. All blood donors are unsung heroes whether they've donated just once or multiple times.
I am a Registered Nurse and have worked in Cardiology, Urology, Acute-Trauma and some General Medicine. I would like the NHS to do a lot more in terms of promoting a whole food plant-based vegan diet to help reduce some of the most common preventable diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Has going vegan helped you to thrive? If you have a story to share, please get in touch.