Give blood, urges accident survivor

By Doug Laing

Glenn Abel has seen both sides of the blood story - giving to save other people's lives for the last 40 years, and having a life-saving top-up of his own after a near fatal fall through a sheet of glass at work in Napier.

Still a long way from full recovery, he has little recall of the days after the mid-afternoon horror on March 25, but what he does remember, after a 15cm glass shard speared his head and he almost lost an arm and an ear, is enough for him to know how lucky he was to survive. Mr Abel was working with the glass at Napier Glass the Onekawa Industrial District.

It was after workmates had rushed to his aid and an ambulance arrived, he recalls: "I was gone, I thought I was gone".

It was three weeks before he was discharged from hospital, and he's still undergoing almost daily treatment and therapy. Yesterday, back at the Blood Service in Napier, possibly his greatest concern is that it will be at least another year before he's again able to give blood.

A contributor more than 130 times since he first gave blood as a teenager in Australia, he was, however, pleased to still be able to do something for the cause, supporting World Blood Day and encouraging others to give blood.

Although no stranger to accidents - he was once "crushed" by a train while working for a railside fertiliser firm - he said, "I never thought I would be in a situation that someone else's blood would be required to save my life".

"I urge anyone to do it."

He commends employers who make time for their staff to donate blood. When he arrived at Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings, the shard of glass, having daggered through his throat and mouth, was still in his head, millimetres from causing what would have been mortal injuries.

There was no time for X-rays and it was only while in surgery that the gravity of the situation was fully realised by an accomplished medical team which over the next few hours fed him with two units of donor blood.

The legacies he's now trying to overcome include the damage to his arm and throat, both hindrances to celebrating his 60th birthday soon after he was discharged from hospital. "I couldn't taste a beer," he said.

He is gradually getting back into his water sport, learning to ride his stand-up paddle board again, swimming with the masters swimmers at the pool in Clive where he lives with his partner, and edging back into helping train surf lifesaving Nippers, who include five grandchildren.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment safety inspectors are investigating the incident.

The Blood Service in Napier takes blood from about 100 donors a week, said donor nurse Richard McGrath. They're among about 3000 contributors a week throughout the country and New Zealand is one of the few countries that can meet its own population's needs for blood and blood products through "voluntary, non-remunerated donors" - the reward is a cuppa, a biscuit, and a sense of giving.

While it means everyone in New Zealand has equal access to a safe and certain supply of blood and blood products when they need it most, there remains a constant need for donors, aged 16-75.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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