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In the 1970s, there was a great need for donors

Sirkka-Maija Simojoki has had a long career as a nurse at the Blood Service and as the person responsible for the Blood Service office in Oulu. Having lived in Oulu for a long time, she knew how to find donors.

"I worked at the Blood Service office in my home town for virtually my whole career. I started as a nurse on the children's ward, which was a real benefit. I was always able to find even the smallest vein, and I became rather famous for my skill.

It was easy to find blood donors in Oulu. In the 1970s, we used whole blood, which meant that we needed many donors. As an old Oulu resident, I knew the city inside out, and I never had any difficulties finding volunteers. My friends, relatives and acquaintances would come in to give blood. I also sang in two choirs, so I had plenty of friends and acquaintances! Many donors became friends, even though I would sometimes ask them to come in on public holidays and even in the middle of the night.

I always enjoyed my work, it never felt hard, and I also found it meaningful. We used every drop of the donated blood. Sometimes the hospital would tell us what they used it for. Excess blood was sent to Helsinki by train, as blood was always in short supply there. If it was urgent, we would send it by plane".

Imaginative ways

"At that time, we were also starting to establish mobile blood services. We used a special method to determine the donors' haemoglobin level as we had no mobile equipment in those days. We took a drop of blood from their fingertip and placed it in a glass containing a copper sulphate solution. If the drop of blood sank to the bottom, the donor was good, but if the drop floated, their blood was too "thin". Sometimes we would check the results at the office, and the method was reliable.

We only had two nurses at Oulu. We often organised mass donations at the military barracks in Oulu and the Pohja Brigade. We kept the conscripts busy with our chatter, and nobody had time to worry. However, I was also known as 'the second General of Oulu' as I would keep the boys in order. I would not let them get up until they'd had a rest.

Once, I arranged for 20 young men to give blood. Then the NCO manager called me the night before to say that we had to postpone. I said that was unfortunate, as Colonel B. W. Kontiopää himself was coming. The Major soon changed his plans. Then I remembered that the colonel had given blood two weeks previously and would therefore not be able to do so now. I then thought I would get in trouble. Fortunately, I had the guts to call the colonel, who agreed to come in 'to inspect the occasion', and I was in the clear".

An orchestra of donors

"Once, I wanted to go to a concert as my brother was singing a solo. I was on duty, but I figured I could get away with it as the concert hall was only 200 metres from the Blood Service. Suddenly, I was called in for a blood transfusion. They were calling for Simojoki at the door, and the doorman hurried over to talk to my brother. I really didn't want to miss the concert to go and find a donor. It then it occurred to me that there were certainly several O negative (the blood group that suits everyone) donors right in front of me.

Then I saw my brother whisper something to the conductor. Shortly afterwards, the conductor announced: "Intermission, we need blood now!" A number of the members of the orchestra volunteered and in the end we selected the donors with cards. We hurried to the Blood Service and later took the bag of blood to the hospital in the donor's car. We also had time for a coffee before returning to the concert hall.

In addition, we started our development cooperation in the 1970s. I visited Somalia and Ethiopia on several occasions and spent more than six months there in total. We visited blood donation locations and taught them what we knew. It was exciting, the people were so different, but really friendly, and they spoke English. Even the heat didn't bother me; I just wore a scarf over my head. There was no shortage of donors and the women were particularly keen. We grew close to the people. All in all, I must say I've had an interesting career".


Text: Minna Kalajoki / Mediafocus

Photos: Matti Rajala