CFA volunteer firefighter Bob Goninon has donated close to the equivalent of a 600-litre Ultra Light Tanker with blood and plasma via the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood over 50-odd years.
As Bob recently marked 700 donations, he urged all CFA members across the state – and their friends and family – to roll up their sleeves as part of the Emergency Services Blood Challenge which kicked off on 1 June.
The Challenge, held annually by Australian Red Cross Lifeblood from 1 June to 31 August, encourages friendly competition between emergency service workers to join their team and donate to win the challenge and, more importantly, save lives.
With 1258 blood and plasma donations during the 2020 challenge, CFA members came second to Victoria Police by only 59 donations and are keen to take out top honours this year.
One in every three Australians will need blood or blood products in their lifetime, however only one in 30 Australians donate blood each year.
For Bob, donating has been a decades-long affair that started with a doctor recommending he start donating blood to stop his recurring nose bleeds.
Since then, he’s donated at more than 20 different donor centres in every state and territory in Australia, including his 350th donation in Darwin, 500th donation in Southport, Queensland, and 625th in Lismore, NSW.
Bob with some of the medals and pins awarded for various blood donation milestones over the years.
He’s one of only seven Victorians who has donated 700 times since his first donation in 1970.
“In the beginning I donated whole blood four times a year, but then I started donating plasma when they started doing that,” Bob said. “The centrifuge used to separate the blood components was bigger than a Volkswagen and you sat in a chair for up to four hours.”
These days, the process itself takes only 45 minutes, although a 1.5-hour appointment is recommended.
Bob makes the trip from Eildon to Ringwood every fortnight to donate and while it’s a substantial time commitment, it’s one that is now part of his life.
“I guess it gets in your blood, pardon the pun,” he laughed, but adds there is a serious element to his commitment.
“Anyone in an emergency services organisation has come across situations where trauma has occurred and understands that volunteers are needed – if you don’t donate, it’s not there,” he said. “One day, I might need some myself – or someone in my family will.”
You can register to donate at lifeblood.com.au.
*Donating blood is considered an essential act of care-giving under Victoria’s CovidSafe Settings.
Bob making his 700th donation at the Ringwood Blood Donor Centre,