Jermyn has donated blood for 44 years

HARARE - For 44 years, Glyn Jermyn has been donating blood saving life — is one of the leading donors.

Notwithstanding the fact that men can donate on a quarterly basis while women can only do so thrice a year, Jermyn is competing at 206 donations to date.

At 66, she is still absorbed with blood donating and hopes to carry on giving blood until she is 70.

“I know a lot of people finish high school donating. Then they go to college, leave the country and do whatever they do and no longer donate,” said the country’s top female blood donor.

Although adults consume the highest amount of blood in the national blood bank, they are the least among donors.

Despite consuming 80 percent of blood bank stocks, adults contribute a miserable 30 percent, according to the National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ).

Under the country’s laws, only those aged between 16 and 60 years can donate blood but Jermyn, who in 2013 was honoured for clocking 200 donations, is one of the few jewels exceptionally permitted to donate past the age limit.

“I hope to get to 70 donating, God willing. I submit a letter from my doctor every year,” she said with a determined voice. “I started donating blood in 1972. When I was at (Rhodes) university, I was not donating because I was doing a lot of sport, and physical education.”

Jermyn’s sister, who has since ceased donating on medical grounds convinced her to join in and start donating blood. “She asked me, “Why don’t you come with me?’ So I went with her and I have continued doing it ever since.”

Jermyn has acquired countless certificates, her father got eight units for a major operation and other small items in honour — but too insignificant compared to the lives, largely those of strangers black or white, her blood has helped save.

She believes donating blood is a community service which every healthy and able person should naturally do.

“It does not cost you anything and takes only 15 to 20 minutes. If you are healthy, it is a very worthwhile thing. Blood is always needed in some areas in the medical world, and if nobody donates then it is going to be a problem.”

Jermyn believes being healthy is not exclusively attributable to safe habits.

“I had malaria and hysterectomy sometime back. That stopped me from donating for a couple of months. I am lucky that I am healthy. I am fit, I walk a lot, I cannot jog anymore because I have messed up knees,” Jermyn said adding while chuckling; “I eat healthy although my doctor would not agree.”

Apart from blood, Jermyn has donated platelets and plasma since the unit opened about 10 years ago.

Platelets are irregular, disc-shaped elements in the blood which assist in blood clotting when a person is injured while plasma is a colourless, watery fluid in the blood and lymph system where blood cells are suspended.

During a whole platelet donation a person is connected to a machine for about an hour and a half. The person’s blood will be circulating between the body and the machine which spins the platelets and plasma off.

From ordinary blood donation, six units of blood are needed on average to produce one unit of blood — making Jermyn’s whole platelet donation crucial.

At NBSZ, after processing, blood sells at a production cost of $133 per unit — a figure that Jermyn, like many fellow Zimbabweans, feels is too high.

“It worries blood bank people but they also have to pay huge duty fees for what they bring into the country. I also feel strongabout it, it is a lifesaving thing (blood) and the equipment (used by the blood company) are among items that should be duty free,” she said in low tones.

At least 100 000 units of blood are transfused annually and each country has to be self-sufficient as blood cannot be imported.

Jermyn has realised that apart from the fear of the needle, a lot of people (both young and old) are terrified about knowing their HIV status.

“Many are so chicken. I think in this country people are scared of the Aids thing and being identified as having HIV. I think that is really sad because you really should know anyway as it is confidential,” she said.

Notwithstanding that 70 percent of the national blood bank’s supply comes from youths, the champion donor believes parents remain a barrier to thousands of potential youthful donors.

“I have a number of my kids who come back to me and say my dad says its fine but mom says I can’t. For the several schools which have a policy which needs parental approval, it means that child a cannot donate.

“It is a matter of educating them to allow it to happen and for the kids themselves, give them the idea of what really happens at the blood blank.”

Her world revolves around donating blood, sport, bush, listening to good pop and light classical music. Jermyn is an ardent fan of “Ubuntu”.

“It pains me that there are a lot of young people who do not have contact with their rural areas, for me it is sad because that is all part of the black culture but we have generations of whites who never stayed in the city.”

Twice every year, she retreats into the bush. According to Jermyn, it is because her father, who was a fisherman, used to take them there.

“I am bush oriented. It is peaceful, close to nature and it allows me to connect deeply with whom I perceive to be my God. I also enjoy the history of the country, from both the black and white side,” said Jermyn.

At Convent, Jermyn teaches swimming, tennis, general ball skills, hockey and basketball; squash. Outside her school, she has been selecting the country’s Under 16 and 18 hockey team for 40 years.

“I am 66 and now retiring. I got a youngster that I have been mentoring and I think she is now capable. You know it does get to a stage too when you feel someone else must take over.”

To former blood donors, Jermyn said: “Why did you start if you cannot continue? What is the point? If you have to do it and if you feel you must do it, then do it the whole time.

“As for current donors, I say do not mess around, and to potential ones, I say just try it and make it regular, otherwise do not do it.”

Comments (0)

Miss Jermyn as my Athletics and hockey coach at Eveline High School in Bulawayo in the 70's and I would love to bet in touch with her again - if this is possible please.

Michele Harrison Zacharias - 6 March 2018

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