'Bloody Foreigners!' - Meet Pawel
Meet Pawel - one of the 'Bloody Foreigners' and everyday hero who regularly donates blood in his local clinic in County Clare.
I have been giving blood since I was in the army, I was 18 when I first started so it is nothing new to me.
I landed in Shannon Airport on 26 May 2005 on a one way ticket, with little English, a CV in English written by a friend, €26 in my pocket, somewhere to stay for a short while and the telephone number of a friend of a friend. But it worked out! I got a job after just one day. Because I only knew a few words in English I knew I had to learn so I annoyed everyone by asking them every time they said something I didn’t understand.
I maybe faced a bit of discrimination when I first arrived – when you can’t speak English very well people assume you aren’t 100% intelligent. I remember in my first job I would be doing shifts and I got all the jobs no wanted like cleaning. But I understand you need to be able to speak the language – I am sure the same would happen to an Irish person in Poland if they couldn’t speak Polish. And there’s absolutely no problem now, I don’t feel any different and people treat me exactly the same.
I started looking to donate blood here in Ireland and saw a mobile clinic. In Poland you have to go to hospital so I was interested to see how you go about donating here. It seemed a bit more complex initially- there is a long form to fill out and have to wait three months after you first provide a sample before you can start donating properly. But after that it is easy. I have been donating two or three times per year since then. I had thought I could only donate it Shannon, but then realised I could also donate anywhere nearby including Ennis, Bunratty and even Limerick.
I managed to persuade my wife to donate and she has tried a few times but unfortunately she can’t donate as the nurse told her while her blood was good her veins are too deep and it would be too invasive to take the blood.
Martial arts were always important to me – I had started doing karate when I was 16. It took me a while but I found a club in 2007. I now run my own karate club in Shannon and have won two bronze medals representing Ireland at European Championships. It’s really helped me get to know the local community. My wife used to joke that I’d pop out to get milk and take two hours – even though the shop was just round the corner. It’s because I’d be stopped to chat by so many people.
I will keep on giving blood for as long as I can. Luckily I haven’t needed it myself, but one day something might happen to me and I might need blood. That’s what community is about. It’s a bit like my karate club – I can share my knowledge and skills with the local community and that’s what builds a community. You can’t thrive alone, living as a group, helping each other, is the best way to live. It’s a gift being able to give blood, it’s a gift which costs nothing, it’s a gift you can give again and again and it’s a gift which comes from the heart.
If you want to find out more about donating blood, please visit the Irish Blood Transfusion Service website.