No ordinary man

Graeme Woodfield

There are times when writers are rewarded beyond their wildest dreams for going the extra mile.

In researching for one of his books while in Britain, Graeme Woodfield was given access to a treasure trove of information, including extensive diary notes, written by Arthur Porritt.

Whanganui born Porritt, who died in 1994, was an Olympic games 100 metre bronze medal winner, a Rhodes Scholar and surgeon, a member of the House of Lords – and New Zealand’s Governor General from 1967 to 1972.

Woodfield teamed up with Joseph Romanos to tell Porritt’s story – No Ordinary Man, in 2008.

Woodfield has also penned a book on a second great athlete, Jack Lovelock, a thought provoking 2020 analysis of our alcohol consumption – Alcohol: a dangerous affair – with George Seber, and a book of poetry.

And as he sat in his office in his Tamahere home, pointing to a picture of his favourite mountain, Aspiring, he quipped there was enough information for a second book on Porritt – and another book of poetry is close.

But it’s not for his writing that the octogenarian was celebrated in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this month.

He was made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to transfusion medicine.

Like Porritt, Graeme Woodfield is no ordinary man.

His work in the blood service field, and establishing services, has been on a national and international stage and he is recognised as an international expert in transfusion medicine by the World Health Organisation. He is a Life Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion.

The Geraldine born doctor spent four and a half years as a house surgeon in Auckland before heading to Scotland, where he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

From there he was offered the role of Director of Blood Services Libya – where he treated Muammar Gaddafi – before leaving to take up a new role which lasted five years in Papua New Guinea.

His next move was back to New Zealand in 1976 and he was, for the next 20 years, voluntary Medical Advisor and Executive member of the Red Cross Society Auckland branch. He says New Zealand has one of the best donor services in the world.

The service requires 4000 donations a week to ensure there is enough plasma and blood stocks – but just three in every 100 people donate. A total of 28 per cent of blood donated is used to treat medical conditions and in surgery – and 26 per cent is used for cancer patients.

He and wife Annabell – they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last December – moved to Tamahere from Ōrākei in 2017. They purchased their son’s home. Mike – a plastic surgeon in Hamilton – moved a short distance up the road.

The couple are members of the St Stephen’s church community in Tamahere and neither drink.

“We both come from Baptist households,” he said.

He recalls as a youth being in a car that crashed – and alcohol was the major factor.

“I’ve seen the rages of alcohol – best not to.”

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