THEY arrived early and often at the Red Cross blood bank in Southbank, Melbourne, yesterday. Armed with books, newspapers and knitting, they waited, knowing their inconvenience was nothing in the scheme of things.
Some had appointments, others arrived unannounced - unable to get through on the phone to book but desperate to donate.
Such was the public desire to give blood after the devastating bushfires that the Australian Red Cross Blood Service's acting chief executive, Pip Hetzel, asked Victorians to stagger their donations over the coming weeks and months. "It's been overwhelming," she said. "Our resources are stretched … it has been the greatest interest we have had to a single event in the history of the blood service."
Dr Hetzel said more than 6000 people made online pledges to donate blood yesterday morning alone. "The support we're seeing is fantastic," she said.
But with ample stocks and blood's limited shelf life, Dr Hetzel said the community could best assist by registering online. Staff would then be in touch to make an appointment.
"Giving a blood donation can save up to three lives," Dr Hetzel said.
Some of the donors, such as, Dharmasiri Jayasinghe, 51, were regulars. A team leader at Toyota, Mr Jayasinghe paid his 39th visit to the blood bank yesterday.
Others, so moved by the plight of bushfire survivors, were making a donation for the first time.
Barry and Julie Main said they wished they had come sooner. The Donvale couple, like Meg Orton from Brunswick, who spoke to The Age as her 470-millilitre blood bag was filling, vowed to become regular donors. "I feel it's not enough, but at least it's something," Mrs Main said. "You just want to do anything you can to help."