Rod – Donated 1980-83

Name: Rod

Donated: 1980-83 (at age 26-29)

Where donated: North Devon Hospital, Barnstaple

My (first) wife drew my attention to a call for volunteer donors in the North Devon Advertiser and that led me to the door of consultant gynaecologist, John M McGarry (known as “Mac” to his friends) at North Devon Hospital. He explained that he had over 100 couples on his books awaiting a donation which included a good number of pilots and their wives based at nearby RAF Chivenor where a low sperm count could apparently be quite an occupational hazard.

Quickly overcoming the initial embarrassing thoughts about what this would actually entail, it simply appealed to me as what we might call today an act of unsolicited kindness. I thought, “I give blood, why not this?” No-one would know it was me and I figured the hero in the transaction would be the recipient father who was prepared to swallow his pride and accept another bloke’s sperm to enable his wife to have a baby.

Donations had to be taken into the hospital reception six monthly where they were frozen in liquid nitrogen and, Mac told me, subsequently be split into eight samples. On receiving a sixth letter requesting a donation, I replied to advise I was leaving the area and the next one would be my last. I took a chance and asked him if he could tell me if there had been any successes to date. He replied, “I am pleased to tell you that the answer that you required was 5.” I admit I got a kick out of that and I still have the letter. It never occurred to me to ask for gender details, and I just assumed they were all fit and healthy.

I have always been open about donating although I didn’t give any more when I moved on. In fact, if truth be told, I’ve dined out on the story a bit over the years – it has a certain shock value (like my tattoos). I discovered over time it’s a subject that invites a broad range of opinions including a few objections that surprised me. Most people though think I did a good thing, as did I for the next 40 years or so. More recently, I’ve come to question this, but I’ll come onto that.

I had no children in my first marriage that broke up just a couple of years later. I remarried in 1989 and continued the open policy with my second wife and our two boys who are now in their early 30s at the time of writing. The eldest recently started his own family.

Thinking back, I recall the medical screening (if you can call it that) being entirely cursory, although my sperm did have to be tested. I was advised I had high motility and thought I bet they say that to all their donors! Over the years people have asked me things like aren’t you worried they might find you and cause you a (usually money related) problem? I never saw it as a risk and always thought that sort of thinking faintly ignorant.

I think it is a matter of natural curiosity to wonder what my biological offspring look like, but I never had any intention of going looking for them. For a long time, it just wasn’t a subject at the front of my mind. Eventually and recently, though I got to thinking what if they are looking for me?

Genealogy is one of my hobbies and when DNA testing became available, I got mine done – secretly, I was looking for confirmation of a Viking ancestry! I’m an insulin dependent Type 2 diabetic so I had the medical analysis carried out too which showed I wasn’t genetically pre-disposed to it (nor do I have any other significant threats lurking in there). I recognised this would also serve the purpose of putting myself out there to be found (not that anyone has as yet but I think it’s inevitable sooner or later).

This also led to me joining the DCUK FB group around Covid time. Reading people’s experiences as DC has made me feel glad I posted my DNA results whilst at the same time question whether if I knew back then what I know now would I have donated. I don’t think I would.






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