Thought Leadership

A plea

By Colin Walls

Next week I am off on vacation and I am looking forward to a week of sea, sand, sun and anything else I can think of beginning with “S”. I am really looking forward to a week away, as I have not really had any time off this Summer. But, while I am away, I would like to give you something to think about. I want to ask you a favor.
Nothing too hard: I would like you to consider saving someone’s life …

Many years ago, when I was at university, I decided to donate some blood. In the UK, it is totally voluntary and unpaid, but I felt it was a worthwhile thing to do. I was very squeamish about blood, needles or anything medical. But I went through with it and had no problems at all. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I went along again four months later [we are allowed to donate three times a year]. On this occasion, it seemed to go fine, but as soon as I stood up, the world went black. I was soon OK, but this scared me a lot and I could not face the idea of donating again.

Fast forward many years. I had graduated, started my career, got married and started a family. As you may be aware from a previous posting, my wife got sick about five years ago – she had leukaemia. After her diagnosis, she would have had just a few weeks to live without treatment. Fortunately, we live in a country with a good social healthcare system and she received excellent care. Whatever you might hear about the National Health Service, they do a fine job most of the time and I was very impressed by the time, effort, expertise and expense that was invested in trying to make her better. They succeeded insofar as she lived for two more years and did have some quality time. Her eventual death was just very unfortunate happenstance.

One of the things that made a very strong impression on me was the amount of blood she needed during her treatment – both whole blood and platelets. I calculated that, in three months she received more blood than one donor could give in a lifetime. My response was obvious: I went to the next blood donation session near my home. I was very nervous, but I did it. And I have done it many times since. I seem to have overcome a lot of my squeamishness. I now make “component donations” – I just give platelets. This means I get hooked up to a machine [an embedded system!] once a month for two hours, while it cycles around, taking some blood out of me, extracting platelets and puts the rest back into me. That is not for everyone and I have to say that I am proud of myself for embarking on such a scary endeavor.

So, my plea to you is simple: Please donate blood if you can. Every donation counts and every one could save a life. If you have medical reasons for not being able to do so, that is fine. Thank you for listening to me and please hassle your friends. [I am not interested in religious exclusions – I respect anyone’s beliefs, but have no time for any religion that prevents one from helping others.] Some people are excluded for odd reasons. I have a friend from Germany, who lives in the US. Because she has lived in Europe, she cannot donate blood in the US as they fear that she carries “mad cow”. Ironic, as she is a life long vegetarian. 🙂

If you do donate, please accept my humble, heartfelt thanks. You have done good.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at