Waterhen – a team of bloody heroes

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Natalie Staples (author), ABIS Bonny Gassner (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, New South Wales

Topic(s): HMAS Waterhen, Australian Red Cross Blood Service

Able Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Craig Walton with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service's mascot, Billy the Blood Drop to promote the 2016 Defence Blood Challenge at HMAS Waterhen, Sydney. (photo: ABIS Bonny Gassner)
Able Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Craig Walton with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service's mascot, Billy the Blood Drop to promote the 2016 Defence Blood Challenge at HMAS Waterhen, Sydney.

Seventeen members of the ship’s company of Sydney base, HMAS Waterhen, volunteered to become brand new blood donors after a visit by ‘Billy the blood drop’ to promote the Defence Blood Challenge.

First time donor, Petty Officer Physical Training Instructor Anthony Wilson said he’d always thought about it, but had decided now was the time to donate.

“I’ve always walked past personnel at Garden Island donating blood and heard stories about it, but I’ve always put it off.”

“I have had a few friends with cancer, so I thought now’s the time.  Talk is cheap.  I need to take action. If I won’t do it, I can’t expect everyone else to do it,” Petty Officer Wilson said.

Now in its eighth year, the Defence Blood Challenge involves a competition between Navy, Army, Air Force and Defence civilians to see which group can donate the most blood to the Red Cross Blood Service in a three month window.  

This year, Defence hopes to save 21,000 lives through 7,000 donations.

Petty Officer Wilson said as a Physical Training Instructor, the challenge aspect to the campaign had appeal.

“The challenge makes it more interesting and gives us something to work towards.  Navy is the lead service, so we need to beat Army and Air Force!”

Able Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Craig Walton started donating blood just over a year ago.  He loves his tattoos and says most people are unaware they can now give blood only months after inking.

“Almost everyone these days has tattoos. You used to have to wait six months after getting new work to give blood, now thanks to better testing it’s only four months,” Able Seaman Walton said.

While you can’t donate blood within four months of getting new ink, you can donate plasma.  After four months, you can donate red blood cells and platelets.

“A lot of people have had cancer in my family.  My mother had breast cancer for the last couple of years.  It was quite sad to see her go through that.  I found giving blood was a way I could help,” Able Seaman Walton said.

It’s not only cancer patients that benefit from blood products.  While the group makes up 34 per cent of blood use, pregnant women and their unborn babies, burns patients, those undergoing routine surgery and accident victims all benefit from blood and its by products.

Families and friends can also take part and contribute to the Navy tally.

Visit www.donateblood.com.au/defence  to get information on how you can participate or where you can donate.