Sitting in the donor chair, I watched my blood go up and around the tubes.
After walking past the New Zealand Blood Service Centre in 2008, I’d worked up the courage to donate.
Amazingly, one donation could save up to three lives.
‘You’ve got AB negative blood,’ the nurse told me after a quick test.
I had no idea it was super rare, accounting for just one per cent of all blood donors.
Sitting down for my bimonthly donation in February 2014, I was being hooked up to the machine by a nurse when a bloke sat down in the chair opposite.
It’d been six years since I’d started donating and now I gave plasma, which is used to treat people who’ve lost blood through trauma, and those with various autoimmune and bleeding disorders.
After losing my beloved husband, Brett, to cancer three years earlier, I was just getting back on my feet.
My kids, Matthew, then 24, and Rachel, then 23, were helping me, and donating blood gave me purpose.
Absorbed in a book, I didn’t take much notice of the man. But walking past his chair as I left, I recognised a familiar face.
It was an old classmate, Earle. Even though we’d been in the same year at high school, we’d never really spoken.
Over the years, I’d seen him around town. He lived close to me, so I’d spotted him washing his car and mowing his lawn.
’G’day Earle,’ I said.
‘G’day Robyn,’ he grinned.
Thinking nothing more of it, I went about my day.
Sitting at my desk, at my job as a commercial insurance broker, two weeks later, my work phone rang. Earle had convinced our mutual friend, Dave, to pass on my number.
‘Would you like to have coffee with me?’ Earle asked confidently.
‘I’d love to,’ I said, excited to hear what he’d been up to since school.
Meeting up a few days later, we got along like a house on fire and ended up chatting for six hours.
I’ve found my forever person, I thought.
An ex-detective, Earle, then 50, was a divorced dad of two kids, Angus, then 20, and Sarah, then 18.
By our third date, both of us knew that we couldn’t live without the other.
‘I knew straight away that I was going to marry you one day,’ Earle confided.
Returning to the place where it began a fortnight later, the nurses were thrilled to see us hand in hand.
‘We knew you two would end up together,’ one smiled.
‘Earle tried to convince us to play matchmaker on your last visit!’ the other nurse giggled.
Apparently, when I’d left, he’d jokingly tried to convince the nurse to take out his needle mid-donation so he could chase after me!
From them on, we’d have ‘dates’ at the donor centre side by side.
‘I can’t believe you found the love of your life donating blood,’ my girlfriend, Fi, said in disbelief.
In fact she even gave it a try herself – with no luck!
‘Well that didn’t work,’ she joked afterwards.
After four months together, in August 2014, Earle and I were out for dinner with friends when he turned towards me.
‘I’ve got to put a ring on that,’ he whispered, fiddling with my ring finger.
Sitting in shock, I could only think of one response,
‘Aren’t you going to get down on one knee?’ I whispered back.
But he didn’t need to. The answer was already yes!
Picking out a ring on New Year’s Eve, we set a date for the big day – December 4, 2015.
Moving into Earle’s home, which he shared with his schnauzer, Rocco, everything felt effortless.
But the real test in our relationship was to come – renos!
Wearing old overalls covered in paint, it soon felt more like fun than work, drawing on the walls with black felt pen before putting up wallpaper.
Glancing over at Earle’s handiwork, I couldn’t help but smile. He’d drawn a love heart, complete with an arrow and the words Earle loves Robyn.
Gathering at the beach months later, we married in front of 50 of our closest friends and family.
Holding Earle’s hands, I got lost in his beautiful blue eyes, as he recited his vows.
I’m right where I’m meant to be, I thought, calmly.
Earle was so nervous he dropped the rings!
Chatting on the deck overlooking the beach with our kids, we were so happy.
Our day couldn’t have been better.
Between us, we’ve donated blood 250 times.
Sometimes I still pinch myself that giving blood found me a hubby.
But Earle’s exactly my type!
For more info on donating blood visit lifeblood.com.au