Blood donation session in memory of Mark McAlister today

Mark McAlister.
Mark McAlister.

A Derry priest who was friends with a local man who needed dozens of blood transfusions before he sadly passed away last year, is encouraging people to give blood at a special session today.

Father Brendan Collins from the Long Tower parish said he felt utterly selfish while he sat with Mark McAlister one day waiting for blood to be delivered from Belfast.

“Mark told me that there wasn’t enough blood being donated here and he had to wait for the blood coming for Belfast,” he said.

“I was disgusted with myself that I wasn’t a blood donor.”

After his death the local cleric along with Mark’s family decided to run a blood donation bank in his memory.

Initially the plan was to have the event in the Long Tower church, however the building is unsuitable.

They then looked to have the blood donation sessions in St Cecilia’s College and the event has been organised for Friday between 2.30-4.00pm or 5.15-8pm.

“Mark was so well known,” said Father Collins. “Over the years he received so many blood donations. Mark first had cancer at the age of seven and died at the age of 27 with many years of treatments, he had a good period of remission but this wasn’t to last.

“We have a shortage of blood donors because that’s the world we live in. We’re all so busy. But I remember being in that hospital with Mark when he was waiting for the blood. Talk about feeling guilty.

“You just get out of the habit of going.

“We need to get the message out there that this is a need for people. If you are not sure if you can give blood, go up on Friday and talk to the team. Blood transfusions can save lives.

“It can’t just be that we are afraid of needles or that we are too busy. The sessions is on until 8 p.m.

“Bishop McKeown is going to come and give blood too.”

Paying tribute to Mark, Father Collins described him as a man who was “full of life.”

“Mark loved to play sport,” he said. “When he’d had a transfusion he would have had lots of energy. He’d be the one telling us to get up and get it done.

“He’d be the one telling us if we can do a good deed, do it today. His life was about helping other people.

The blood donation session will take place today from 2.30-4.00pm or 5.15-8pm to Saint Cecilia’s College.