Locals speak about importance of blood donation

By Charles Lefebvre
January 10, 2018 - 1:30pm Updated: January 10, 2018 - 7:14pm

 

MEDICINE HAT, AB - It’s essential for life, and Canadian Blood Services is reminding Canadians to keep blood donation at the front of mind during the winter months.

In December, the organization put out a call to service for Canadians to make appointments to donate blood, noting the number of donations slows down during December and January.

“Over the holidays, we’re with friends, we’re celebrating, we’re getting together with people and we’re even travelling, and people who are regular donors might not be thinking about blood donation,” said Deb Steele-Kretschmer with Canadian Blood Services. “But, patients who rely on blood products, the need for blood doesn’t take a holiday.”

Carla Parker is one person who understands the need for blood donations. In March 2016, she gave birth to her son Curran through an emergency c-section, but immediately after giving birth, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage, requiring a second emergency surgery.

“I would have died,” she said. “My heart stopped. I had a ventricular tachycardia event, which meant my heart was beating so fast that my body couldn’t handle it, and then I flatlined, so they gave me the transfusion to basically bring me back.”

Parker received 16 units of blood, plasma and platelets during the transfusion, which saved her life.

“Without that blood, I would be gone, and because our hospital had enough on hand, I’m alive,” she said.

Parker has been a regular blood donor for 17 years, but her recent health scare prompted her to make it a focus. Canadian Blood Services makes people who have received a transfusion wait a year before donating blood again, and once the deadline was up, Parker was back in the clinic.

She has a goal of donating the exact amount of blood that saved her life.

“I’ve still got at least 13 (units to give), but I won’t stop there,” she said. “It will be the rest of my life for sure, as long as I’m able.”

Mike Grudecki has been donating blood for 20 years, and made his first donation of 2018 Tuesday afternoon at the Canadian Blood Services clinic at the Medicine Hat Lodge. The clinics are held once a month in the city.

“It has the ability to help people, and that’s the most important part, saving somebody’s life if you can,” he said.

Grudecki has been donating blood for more than 20 years, and has a blood type of o-negative, which is considered the ‘universal donor,’ since it can be given to any blood type.

“I have the rare blood,” he said. “There’s not many of us out there obviously. And I like to help people. I’d prefer to save someone’s life than to just sit at home and not.”

Canadian Blood Services estimates seven per cent of the population has the o-negative blood type, and it’s one of the most in demand types for donations.

Steele-Kretschmer notes blood is a perishable product, with platelets having a shelf life of seven days from donation to transfusion which is why they encourage people to donate on a regular basis.

“Right now, we want to make sure our national inventory stays about 20,000 units on hand, that’s what we like to have,” she said. “The inventory for blood across Canada is shared nationally, so donors in Medicine Hat would donate, and their blood products would go to Calgary for processing, but they could be used in Alberta, they could be used elsewhere in the country, depending on the need.”

Canadian Blood Services is encouraging everyone to donate if they’re able to at donation clinics.

“If you can get in a regiment and do it every three months, by all means, do it,” said Grudecki.

“You never know when you’re going to need it,” said Parker. “I never thought for the life of me that when I went to have my first child, that I would be on my deathbed almost.”

The next blood donor clinic in Medicine Hat is Feb. 6 and 7 at the Medicine Hat Lodge. To make an appointment, visit www.blood.ca, call 1-888-2366283 or download the Give Blood app. Clinics should be booked as early as possible, as appointments fill up quickly in Medicine Hat, said Steele-Kretschmer.

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