Saving lives for the 100th time

Janet Elms-Smith, Development Manager at Western’s Nirimba Campus, recently sat down in the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood chair for the 100th time,...
Janet has blonde hair and is wearing a yellow t-shirt. She sits in a chair at Lifeblood holding a certificate in her left hand and her right arm is stretched out with a tourniquet.
Janet celebrates donating blood with Lifeblood for the 100th time. Image: Supplied

In Australia, 1 in 3 people will need blood or blood products in their lifetime. It is something that many people don’t think about, but when you need it, you are thanking those who rolled up their sleeves for you.

The staff at Lifeblood Parramatta know Janet Elms-Smith well. The Development Manager at Western’s Nirimba Campus recently sat down in the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood chair for the 100th time, hitting the major milestone after donating blood for 44 years! Starting when she turned 18, she has since only paused her donations when she was living outside of major cities and when she was having children and breastfeeding.

Janet attends Lifeblood on a regular basis. She describes the experience as an inviting and caring environment and has found that the staff will go out of their way to meet her busy schedule to ensure she can continue donating blood, by extending trading hours or opening on weekends.

When asked as to why she donates blood, Janet’s response is altruistic.

“I am the universal donor 0- so my blood is very much in demand. It is used for trauma patients and premature babies and 7% of the population who too are 0- and cannot receive any other blood type. I also donate on behalf of all my friends and family who are not able to donate.”

Janet has currently saved 300 lives. With no signs of stopping soon, she is hoping to hit the 250 milestone mark before retiring.

On top of blood donations, five years ago she began also donating plasma. Plasma can be donated as often as every two weeks and is used for 18 life-saving therapies. According to Janet, “it’s really easy and painless to donate plasma.”

Janet is currently taking part in the Western Sydney University friendly intercampus Who Bleeds Wins Blood Challenge, signing up with the Nirimba and Sydney Olympic Park team.

“What a great way to encourage staff and students to start donating or to donate more regularly!” she says.

Western Sydney University is proud to be part of Lifeblood Teams, the social responsibility program of the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood. Life depends on blood and plasma, so WSU is running the WSU Who Bleeds Wins Blood Challenge to help save 400 lives! The Challenge runs from 1 August to 31 October 2022 and we need your help!

Donate blood during the challenge and register to your respective WSU Campus Lifeblood Team to make your donation count. Simply download the ‘Donate Blood app’ to your mobile device and update your ‘preferences’ to your team. For more information on the Blood Drive visit: https://my.donateblood.com.au/app/challenge/details/challenge_id/36. Janet finds the app easy to use to set and manage appointments.

The challenge is currently in its 8th week, with a total tally of 208 blood donations have been made to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, saving 624 lives. Campbelltown Campus is currently on top of the leader board, with Penrith and Parramatta closely behind.

Do you want to see your campus be crowned the champions of this year’s challenge? Make sure to register today!


Humans of WSU – Meet Bayan Sohailee

Meet Bayan Sohailee a student we talk to as we help celebrate Diversity Festival at WSU from 26th September 2022 to 30 September 2022. ...
Meet Bayan Sohailee

Name: Bayan Sohailee

 Age: 23

 Studying: Bachelor of International Studies / Bachelor of Social Science/ BALCT

Background: Bayan is a refugee, he fled from Iran with his family when he was six years old. He is ethnically Kurdish and follows the religion of Bahai. As Bayan notes, falling into these two categories means “he drew the short-straw,” as it was impossible to remain in Iran.

He came to Australia in 2007, after first going to a refugee camp in Pakistan. During this time, he faced great hardships including lack of access to nutritious food and clean water. However, he notes he and his family were lucky to be granted permanent residences in Australia.

W’SUP: What does opportunity mean to you?

Bayan:“Being able to participate, having access to university and the programs offered, so we can better ourselves. I think this links to the Australian idea of having a fair go. Even being able to come to Australia as a refugee was an opportunity as was gaining my four degrees. I am thankful that I have had these opportunities.”

W’SUP: What issue are you most passionate about right now?

Bayan:“I am passionate above giving voices to those that were silenced. One day I hope to be a human rights attorney so that I can give a voice to the silenced voices of Kurds back in Iran. Even if I can give a voice back to one person then that would be a success.”

W’SUP: Advice to students?

Bayan: “Try your best to confront your fears and do not be consumed by it. Try your hand at everything that the university has to offer and do your best not to be scared of going outside your comfort zone. I would also recommend that you attend events and meet people outside of your school/discipline. You never know when you may need to speak to a future psychologist, IT specialist, or politician. It makes everything a whole lot easier and faster if you can just speak to a friend you met at university.”


Election: Nursing students call for more support

Nursing students are hoping that the upcoming Federal Election will see major changes implemented within their industry. ...
Crystal Ram, President of WSU Nursing and Midwifery Society, wants government action in reviving the nursing industry

Nursing students are hoping that the upcoming Federal Election will see major changes implemented within their industry. Many student nurses are in the workforce completing practical components of their degree, but the pressures influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic are causing angst about the future of the profession.

Crystal Ram, President of the Western Sydney University Nursing and Midwifery Society, is tired of the lack of responsiveness from the government to create a safe work environment. Ram has seen the stress impact her fellow students and has watched some of them question their future in the industry.

“They are working ridiculous hours already on the frontline. When do they have time to study? When do they time to focus on other priorities?” Ram says.

“Students are dropping out when it is supposed to be about retention. More needs to be done.”

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, is aware of the pressures currently placed on nursing and wants to see a resolution come from the upcoming election.

“They are stressed, burned out and leaving the profession. This is why an Albanese Labor Government will extend health and wellbeing support for our nurses across the country with a new National Nurse and Midwife Health Service,” he says.

Labor is committed to investing up to $23 million into the proposed National Nurse and Midwife Health Service, an expansion of the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program in Victoria. The phone service will be seen as encouragement not only for nurses to stay in the industry, but for nursing students to feel uplifted about their future career path.

“The new National Nurse and Midwife Health Service will provide nurses and midwives with a range of personalised and professional support service. The program will be open to enrolled and registered nurses, midwives and students,” says Butler.

Ram is optimistic about Labor’s plan and believes it will help encourage current and future nursing students to remain in the industry.

“It is great to see the Shadow Minister collating these ideas and trying to execute them. This scheme would take a strain off nurses, and if implemented, it is the change we need,” she says.

Anne Stanley MP currently holds the Labor seat for Werriwa. In striving to be re-elected, she is campaigning for the urgent attention needed for the health care system. Her values are reflective of times where she relied on nurses, which she knows will relate to many.

“With children who were born prematurely and a Mum with a chronic health condition, we needed Medicare, doctors, but especially nurses, to provide the expertise needed to keep them healthy and to lead full lives,” she says.

A survey conducted by Monash University and Royal Melbourne Hospital showed that out of 7,800 Australian healthcare workers, more than 40 per cent had developed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the end of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stanley is ashamed of the current conditions faced by nurses. “This is just unacceptable for people who were our heroes during the pandemic,” she says.

Labor’s plan to support nurses will be largely welcomed. However, although Ram is supportive of their proposed plans to reshape the nursing industry, she does not want to see another election filled with empty promises.

“Regardless of who does become elected, something needs to change. It needs to stop being a position of profits over people because people are priority.” says Ram.

“Whether it’s any side of politics, I feel like it is the government’s duty to advocate for its citizens. Healthcare is a universal right.”


This article was first published at The Junction.


My day as a student parent

"You look tired. Long night?" Be kind to strangers. You never know how many times they got up to a baby last night. ...
Sandy with her children

Unlike other accounts of this type, I won’t start with waking. That would not depict the bone aching exhaustion I ‘start’ my day with. Instead, I’ll begin my story at 8 pm the previous night.

8 pm in my home is the moment I count down to all day: bedtime for the kids. My 5-year-old son skips off to bed, still full of today’s adventures and tomorrow’s plans. He is the easy child. My daughter on the other hand, has spent her 19 months perfecting the art of making evil look cute. And so the rituals are ticked off. Bottle of milk. Not too hot, not too cold. Sleeping bag. Blankie. Dolly. White noise machine. Fan on low for circulation. Nightlight is half under the cot so she can see the light it casts, but can’t quite see where it is coming from. All is quiet: success. Time for dinner with hubby and a glass of well-earned wine…

I have 3 hours of lectures to watch before I can call it a night. Midnight ticks by and I can hear my husband snoring in bed behind me. I crawl in next to him and spend the next who-knows-how-long rolling over in my mind the endless list of to-dos. Which child am I dropping off tomorrow morning? How much milk is left in the fridge? How long can I put off grocery shopping before I run out of bread? Can’t forget to buy toilet paper. Did I transfer money for the power bill? When is that doctor’s appointment again? Need to get a present for that birthday party next week. Is tomorrow library day? Where is the library bag? Did I put the laundry in the dryer????? I check. And the moment I get back into bed. MAAAAAAAAAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

It’s 1:15 am and it takes me 30 minutes to shush and rock and pray her back to sleep. I’m asleep within minutes of her. When next I hear my name, it is 2:30 am. A jab in hubby’s ribs indicates it is his turn. But he is. SO. LOUD. You don’t know how loud a light switch is until 2:30 am in the morning when you just want to sleep. I should have got up to the baby. I’m awake anyway. When she stops fussing I drift back into an exhausted stupor. It’s 3:05 am and I have awakened once again. What is wrong with her? Why did she inherit my love of cheese instead of my love of sleep? She’s in our bed now, and I spend the rest of the night with a wriggling ball of limbs and hair wedged between me and my husband. I dare not roll over in case I wake her. 5:30 am is marked by the warbling of magpies and my daughter shouting “UP”.  This child will change the world one day. She will either rule it or burn it down.

We are 400 words in already and my day is just officially starting. Time for breakfast, a load of laundry, the dishwasher is unpacked, library bag and hat are tracked down and school bags are packed. We are all out the door by 7:45 am off to our respective destinations for the day. Work, work, kindergarten, childcare.

7.5 hours of work rolls slowly by, punctuated by coffee. Caffeine, how would I do this without you? 4:30 pm is home time. Except it isn’t. I need to pick up 2 children before I can think of home. The 5-year-old doesn’t want to leave after school care yet. It’s his turn to use the rollerskates. I decide to avoid a tantrum and wait 10 minutes for him to awkwardly skate around the school yard. Imagine a newborn giraffe learning to walk, except on wheels. He is so proud of himself. “Did you see me, Mum?!” “Yes honey, you were spectacular! What did you learn today?” The trip between school and childcare is short, but you wouldn’t know it by how many questions I answer in that short drive.

Picking up my daughter is a different affair. She is as tired as I am but isn’t propped up by caffeine. She is emotional and hangry and her shoes are full of sand. It takes longer to get her into the car seat than to drive home. She is clinging onto me like one of those $2 clip-on koalas you see in touristy shops in Circular Quay. I am her safe place and she needs me. I cook dinner with her on my hip. The 5-year-old won’t eat meat. The toddler won’t eat vegetables. I give up and they both get air-fried chips for dinner for the 2nd time this week.

Hubby gets home at 6:15 pm and entertains the kids while I sneak off to do some reading while I’m alert enough to focus on it. I can hear the squeals of delight through 3 closed doors between the living room and where my desk is tucked away in our bedroom. By the pitch, I can establish Daddy is either giving them horsey rides or pretending to be a dog. I wish I was with them. Was returning to studies the right choice? Am I selfish to chain myself to this computer while they are so young? Am I trading now for a better later they didn’t ask for? And I re-read the same sentence 4 more times…

7:30 pm is bath time and it’s all hands on deck to get both kids clean, brushed and dressed. And since it is impossible to bathe them without getting drenched, we all end up showering together half the time. While wrestling a wondersuit onto my daughter I reflect on how hot showers have become a luxury. But my daughter is showing me she has a belly button, and that is worth the trade-off of independence. She learns something new every day and it is an absolute delight. And my son is calling for me to read The Velveteen Rabbit before bed again because he knows it’s my favourite. The kids and I arrange ourselves in the single bed to read his book. It’s like tetris with more feet, but it’s my favourite moment of the day.

The bedroom doors close at 8:00 pm. I’ve made it through another day, except there’s an assignment due in 2 days that I haven’t started yet. And so the midnight oil beckons to be burned…

Student Parent Union

If you can relate to this story, then you can find support in the Student Parent Union. The Student Parent Union provides a network and a voice for students who are parents at Western. We facilitate connection and support while navigating the unique experience that is studying while parenting.

Join us on WESTERNLife  https://life.westernsydney.edu.au/SPU/club_signup