Blood donors haven't just kept Adriaan Bosch alive — they've allowed the Kaeo man to raise two kids and give decades to community causes ranging from his local rugby club to Coastguard.

Bosch has an immune deficiency which means his body doesn't produce enough blood cells to fight off pathogens, leaving him vulnerable to the 'flu and all manner of infections.

Since his diagnosis in 1990 he has used plasma products made from donated blood to help his body stave off infection. Once a week he injects two half-litre syringes via a ''sub cut'' or subcutaneous injection.

That hasn't stopped Bosch leading a full and busy life.

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He has raised two kids as a solo dad, works full-time at the Imerys china clay quarry at Matauri Bay, volunteered for 10 years as a skipper for Whangaroa Coastguard and was the secretary of Kaeo Rugby Club for many years.

He played a key role in the ''Lift it up'' project to raise Kaeo's rugby clubrooms after two devastating floods in 2007, while as a Coastguard skipper he was called out at all hours in all conditions to rescue boaties in peril.

Without blood donors none of that would have been possible, Bosch said.

''It's allowed me to work for 30 years, it's allowed me to do my community stuff and raise my kids. And without it I probably wouldn't have got this far, truthfully.''

Bosch met a few donors this week — including Paihia's Annette Roberts, who holds the New Zealand women's record for giving the most blood — to explain what it meant to him and how he used the blood they donated.

''These people are heroes really,'' he said. Bosch, who is Māori (Ngāti Kuri, Ngāpuhi) through his mother and Dutch through his father, hoped to encourage more Māori and Pasifika people to donate blood ''for friends, family and whānau''.

''It could be your next door neighbour who needs it. You just don't know.''

Whangārei's Amanda Delhaas donates blood for the first time with technician Cherry Abrea getting the process under way. Photo / John Stone
Whangārei's Amanda Delhaas donates blood for the first time with technician Cherry Abrea getting the process under way. Photo / John Stone

Many people thought donated blood was used only in hospital transfusions after accidents or surgery, but that accounted for less than half the blood donated. The rest was needed for people with medical conditions, including immune disorders, and cancer patients.

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Bosch's immune condition is now starting to catch up with him. He gave up his Coastguard role after a nine-week stint in Whangārei Hospital last year, he suffers from fatigue and has to avoid some social situations — if someone sneezes in the supermarket, for example, he has to quickly head the other way.

But he still hasn't given up his community work.

Bosch is still the national chairman of the Immune Deficiencies Foundation of New Zealand, a role he has held for the past 15 years. The foundation receives no government funding but supports 1600 people around the country with chronic illnesses related to immune deficiencies.


Champion donor: 'I like helping people'

No New Zealand woman has given more blood donations than Paihia's Annette Roberts.

The home support worker was 16 when she gave her first donation; 53 years later she's still going strong, travelling to an Auckland clinic every month to give blood with her husband Keith.

According to the NZ Blood Service Roberts has so far clocked up 405 donations. Each lot of blood plasma she gives is enough to help 13 people.

''I do it because I like helping people,'' Roberts said.

Recently the couple had met a 20-year-old man with immune deficiency who was able to live a full life thanks to donated plasma.

''He's healthy, he's at uni, he gallivants around, he does anything he wants. It's quite humbling to know you've had a little part in keeping people alive and healthy. I get great pleasure from that.''


Give blood, save a life

Today, June 14, is World Blood Donor Day. If you want to donate call 0800 448 325 (0800 GIVE BLOOD) or visit www.nzblood.co.nz to find out whether you are eligible and when a mobile blood clinic is visiting a town near you.

Who can give blood?

Most people can donate from their 16th birthday to their 66th (71st for existing donors). You must weigh at least 50kg and for first-time donors aged under 25 extra height and weight criteria apply. You shoudn't donate if you have a cold, flu, stomach bug or other infection, or if you've had a tattoo or body piercing in the last four months. There are also some criteria around sexual activity; click on 'Am I eligible?' at www.nzblood.co.nz for more information.

What about travel?

Overseas travel is fine in most cases but you might not be able to donate blood, for example, after travelling to a country affected by Zika virus. You can check using an online map tool at www.nzblood.co.nz. If you lived in the UK, France or Ireland for six months or more between 1980 and 1996 (or received a blood transfusion in those countries from 1980 on) you can't give blood. This is due to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, more commonly known as mad cow disease.

Where can I donate?

There is no permanent blood clinic in Northland but a mobile clinic makes regular visits. Call the 0800 number or see the website to find out when it's coming to you. Today you can donate from 8.30am to noon at the Kaikohe War Memorial Hall; on June 24 the clinic will visit Dargaville Town Hall from 1-6pm. It's best to call first to make an appointment.

What blood types are needed?

All types of blood are needed but people with O negative blood — so-called universal donors, whose blood can be given to anyone in an emergency — are especially sought after.

How much blood is needed?

The NZ Blood Service collects 3000 donations a week just to meet demand. That sounds like a lot but only 110,000 New Zealanders, about 3 per cent of the population, are donors. Another 55,000 are needed.