500-time blood donator Peter Clark with leukemia survivor Maggie Coppin.
500-time blood donator Peter Clark with leukemia survivor Maggie Coppin. Rob Williams

Decision that saved Miracle Maggie's life

FOR ALL the times Peter Clark has rolled up the sleeves to make a life-saving blood donation, he has been lucky enough to have never seen the other side.

It was during his stint as a railway apprentice more than 50 years ago when his boss told him that if he was going to ride a motorcycle to work, he ought to start donating blood now, just in case he needs it himself one day.

That half-joking remark set Mr Clark on the road to making regular blood donations over the next half century, with the 71-year-old recently reaching the 500 donation milestone.

As part of a special event to thank donors during National Blood Donor Week, the Red Cross Blood Service brought Mr Clark together with the brave recipients of blood products, including 11-year-old Ipswich girl Maggie Coppin, who survived leukaemia with the help of blood donors.

Diagnosed within hours of her birth, Maggie almost died of organ failure at three weeks old. Her mum, Anne Wright, said doctors told her Maggie had a 2 per cent chance of survival.

 

500-time blood donator Peter Clark with leukemia survivor Maggie Coppin (front) and her family John Coppin, Anne Wright and Ruby Coppin
GIVING BACK: 500-time blood donator Peter Clark with leukemia survivor Maggie Coppin (front) and her family John Coppin, Anne Wright and Ruby Coppin Rob Williams

"At two-and-a-half weeks Maggie had her first cycle of chemotherapy," she said.

"Eight days later her vital organs were compromised and she was on life support," Ms Wright said.

"Her father John and I were told to make a decision about whether or not we should switch off the life support."

Luckily mum and dad were not ready to give up on their girl just yet. She started to regain organ function the following day - miraculously - and in three months she underwent a bone marrow transplant.

"When she needed blood products there was nothing available in Queensland," Ms Wright said.

"It ended up coming from WA at midnight.

"That was life-saving at the time."

Few people truly know the value of blood donors like Maggie and her parents.

Maggie needed dozens more blood and platelet donations as she battled on. She is now in remission and leading as full a life as she can, having taken on school captaincy responsibilities at her school this year.

As one of 79 local legends from Ipswich who were recognised for their life-saving donations at a special event on Friday, Mr Clark said it was inspiring to meet recipients like little Maggie.

"She is a special little girl," Mr Clark said.

"She has survived the odds and I was very interested to hear her story of how close a call it was for her."

Ipswich blood services spokeswoman Sandee Thompson said the city's 3352 donors had given blood 11,225 times in the past year, potentially saving more than 33,000 lives.

Across the state, more than 300,000 donations have been made in that time.

"We need a new blood donor every five minutes in Australia, so we hope these extraordinary donors will inspire others to roll up their sleeves and become life-long blood donors too," Mrs Thompson said.

"Our amazing donors can't do it alone, and we need more people to make blood donation a regular, life-saving habit in Ipswich. It takes just an hour of your time to donate blood and every donation can help save up to three lives."

To donate blood phone 131495 or visit the website donateblood.com.au.