THE south Wales community owes a huge debt of gratitude to a local man who has made his thousandth accredited blood donation.
Earlier this month (August) Howard J Provis completed his 1,000th blood donation and has chosen to mark the event by appealing to more people to join him in donating because the numbers of donors have dropped dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Provis works for Co-op Funeralcare and spent 11 years between the Penarth and Barry branches but has recently taken up a position in Cardiff. His work and his commitment to donating have made him critically aware of the impact the virus has on health care.
The coronavirus crisis has been a challenging time for employees in the funeral industry. He said: ‘’We have been at another end of the coronavirus crisis. We are dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic when families are in distress because they couldn’t give their loved ones a proper send off. It has been tremendously difficult but we have done our very best to help ease the pain and the problems coronavirus has brought to families.”
The drop in donors means that currently just three per cent of the regional population are donating regularly and the Welsh Blood Service needs help.
Mr Provis said: “The cause is extremely important to me. My family has always been involved with the NHS and both my father and brother are long term blood donors.
“When my father was based in Barry, he donated every six months and so when I turned 18, I gave my first donation and never stopped.
“I haven’t realised how the years have been ticking up. I am 64 now. During any one year I have never stopped donating.”
Mr Provis, who is also well known in the local community for his work with the Royal Air Force Association, hopes that his story will encourage many more people to take part.
He explained: “It gives me a great sense of satisfaction and while I’ve got good health, I wanted to help people to have the best chance of having good health.
“In reality, they take such a small moment and it’s all very relaxed. Needles are so much more refined now. When I first started out, it took two hours. The machinery and the technology are so much better now.
“The staff are wonderful and really get to know you if you become a regular donator. They know my life history because I’ve out-donated most of their staff. Up at the blood transfusion centre in Tonyrefail, there are staff members that have been there for 20 years. I see them as an extended family now.
“I really want to be an advocate for people to give. I see it as my monthly MOT. When you give blood, they check it and monitor it. They check for certain conditions. It’s beneficial in so many ways.”
Although he now lives in Barry, his connection to Penarth is very important to him. He has done a lot of work locally as a teacher, fundraiser, Old Penarthians RFC player and employee as well as living in the area for a large part of his life.
No matter where he has been he has always found the time to donate.
He said: “Even when I was in Germany in 1985 with the RAF, I still donated to the Red Blood Service.”
Howard remembers many fantastic moments from his donation experiences.
He said: “When I achieved my 100th donation I was in Cardiff and, because it was Christmas time, all the staff dressed up as pantomime characters.
“I remember so clearly the Wedgwood celebration plates that were given to us by a lady dressed as a police officer.
“A really special time is when you’re told that you’ve matched someone in your donation. In other words, you are the closest matching person to someone who needs blood at a nearby hospital. That is an extra special feeling.
“Usually they need these exact matches for major incidents and operations and so you know that donation is going to really help people out.
Mr Provis concluded by stressing why more people need to get out there and donate.
“It could be your life or mine that’s being saved or needs that blood tomorrow.”
“I am going to drive for half century of donating blood non-stop. That’s my next move and I hope people might read this and think, I’ll give that a go.”
You can find out more about being a blood donor in Wales by clicking here.