Farmer’s 50 years of blood doning

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NOT many people spend their 50th birthday saving lives, but that’s just what farmer Tom Whitaker did - and for potentially the 150th time.

The father-of-three from Winmarleigh marked his half century of blood donations as he celebrated his fifth decade.

And Mr Whitaker has given blood in a different location each time, starting in Garstang and including Lancaster, Ambleside, Fleetwood, Longridge, Preston, Preesall and even across into Yorkshire and up to Cumbria at Halifax, Huddersfield, Barrow and Ulverston.

As each donation has the potential to help up to three adults, the dairy farmer could have saved 150 lives.

He first gave blood at 18, when he was working on a farm and went along with the farmer to donate.

He said: “The first four times I gave in different places by accident.”

He and his wife, Valerie, aged 49, decided once the couple’s three children had been born, that Mr Whitaker would carrying on giving in different places, giving them the chance to take a break from the farm and to explore new places.

He said: “You are always busy on the farm, it’s difficult to leave unless you have an excuse.

“Donating blood is a good thing to do but it also gives us a day out, it’s two reasons in one. We go to places you wouldn’t normally think to.

“I set off to give 10 pints, I wanted to have donated more than enough in case I ever needed new blood so I’d done my bit.

“I’ve just carried on, I’ve been giving about 20 years properly, sticking to different places.

“I give blood first then me and my wife, explore. Giving blood has never affected me so we have a good day out, we enjoy it.

“Once you start exploring places it opens your eyes to what is there, everywhere has got something good about it. Ellesmere Port didn’t seem that exciting but we loved Port Sunlight.

“Twenty years ago I used to work out where I’d go next with the nurse at the session, now with session search on the website I can do it online, it’s so easy.”

On his 50th birthday, on October 5, Mr Whitaker reached his half century at Norfolk House Donor Centre in Manchester city centre, the 50th different session he has been to.

The couple then went on a tour of Manchester City’s stadium, a highlight being Mr Whitaker getting his photograph taken with the FA Cup, and watched comedian Peter Kay at the Manchester Evening News arena that evening.

Mr Whitaker said: “I will carry on, 75 is the next target.’’

The couple have three children: Robert, aged 21, who has a farm in New Zealand, Ellen, aged 20, who is a student nurse and James, aged 16, who is studying sport.

Helen Whelan, Senior Donor Services Manager North West, for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “I congratulate Tom on his wonderful achievement.

“We are forever grateful to our blood and platelet donors who so generously give of their time and efforts to make their donation appointments and on behalf of all the patients we help I thank Tom and all blood donors in the North West.”