Somewhere in New Zealand there's a woman who will always have a special connection with Todd Lust, despite never meeting or even speaking to him before.

That's because Lust helped save her life.

The Lower Hutt man was tearful when he spoke about receiving a card from the woman after donating platelets specifically for her. He was one of only five people in the country who was the right match.

It's part of the reason he continues to donate whatever is needed - blood, plasma, and platelets on the rare occasion.

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The card, passed on through the New Zealand Blood Service - which is this week running its annual campaign to recruit more life-saving blood donors - was a reminder of how he had given the woman another chance at life.

"When you think of those things, you can't really sort of say no to giving," he said.

It's not the only reason close to Lust's heart.

When he was just 6-months-old, his father was in a house fire and died from his burns.

So when Lust first began donating blood in high school, receiving notes from the Blood Service telling him his blood had gone to patients at the burns unit in hospital was another reason to keep giving.

Todd Lust has donated 235 times so far, and tries to give every couple of weeks. Photo/Melissa Nightingale
Todd Lust has donated 235 times so far, and tries to give every couple of weeks. Photo/Melissa Nightingale

These things keep Lust coming in and rolling up his sleeves - literally - to help those who need what he can give.

Over the past 43 years he has donated 235 times, a number which climbs quickly since he switched to donating plasma.

People can only donate blood every three or four months, but plasma is a different story.

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"What actually happens is that there's a big machine next to you, what happens is it takes the blood and every 10 or 12 minutes it stops and it sends the blood back and it sends the plasma into bags."

Because donors receive their red blood cells back, they are able to donate every two weeks instead of every few months. It takes about an hour to donate, whereas giving whole blood is usually a shorter process.

Plasma is used to treat people who have lost a lot of blood from accidents or other trauma and people who have severe bleeding during surgery.

Lust doesn't consider it to be too much of a sacrifice to take an hour out of his day every two weeks to donate.

"I mainly do maybe 15-20 times a year. . . the reason I give the blood makes me sort of... I want to go all the time."

He has only donated platelets four of five times, when he is asked specifically for it.

That process takes about two hours and is admittedly a little strange, as the blood is cold when it is put back into his body, which can cause him to become a bit chilled.

"You never know when you might need it yourself or someone in your family might need it. There's no cost other than giving a bit of your time . . . we've all got time to give."

• NZME is the official media partner of the New Zealand Blood Service's 'Know Your Type' campaign

Know your type - and save a life

The New Zealand Blood Service is running a series of "Know Your Type" events this week allowing Kiwis to find out what type of blood they have, and become a donor.

Every year the NZBS needs 20,000 new donors to step up and find out if they are the type to save a life.

All you have to do is come down to an event, find out if you meet the donor eligibility criteria and one of the Blood Service's staff will test your blood through a quick finger prick. Within a couple of minutes, you'll know your type and you can register to donate.

Preference for blood typing will be given to those who meet the donor eligibility criteria which can be found on www.nzblood.co.nz

Auckland - The Cloud on Queens Wharf on Sunday, plus the Westpac Atrium, Britomart, on Wednesday

Tauranga - Bayfair Shopping Centre, outside Kmart, on Saturday

Hamilton - Chartwell Shopping Centre, level 1, on Tuesday

Wellington - Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, on Wednesday

Christchurch - The Blood Donor Centre, 15 Lester Lane, from Monday to Friday, and the Cashel Street Mall on Friday

Dunedin - Meridian Mall on Thursday

• For full times and more information, visit: https://nzblood.cwp.govt.nz/missingtype/blood-typing-events?stage=Live

RED GOLD - THE GIFT OF LIFE

•New Zealand donors gave blood a total 164,000 times between July 2016-June 2017
•Last year donors saved and improved the lives of 27,000 New Zealanders - about 74 people a day
•Each year about 20,000 people leave the donor registry for a number of reasons; including age, ill health, pregnancy, overseas travel and personal choice
•Those defections have to be replaced to keep up with demand
•85 per cent of our population are A and O blood groups, the types most in demand
•More than 50 per cent of Kiwis don't know what their blood type is
•Just 4 per cent of the eligible population are donors; 109,202 New Zealanders
•111,146 whole blood units were collected in 2016-17
•One whole blood donation has the potential to save three lives
•You can donate whole blood every three months
•Whole blood donations (red cell component) only last 35 days
•Platelets must be transfused within seven days of collection
•Plasma can be frozen for up to two years and blood products made from plasma can be stored for up to two years

Source: The New Zealand Blood Service