This January, the American Red Cross celebrates National Blood Donor Month by recognizing the lifesaving contribution of blood and platelet donors. Red Cross is encouraging people to find the goodness in their hearts to help start off the new year strong.
One of the most difficult times of the year to collect enough blood products is during the winter season. Extreme weather and illnesses often lead to blood drive cancellations and therefore, an inability to meet inventory needs. Kristen Ungar is the Territory Manager from Canadian Blood Services. She reminds people that the need for blood is a 24/7, 365 day commitment.
“You don’t need to wait for a tragedy to give blood”
“[After what happened in] Las Vegas, there [were] people lining up to donate blood and I thought that was interesting because we need that all the time in Canada. You know, you don’t need to wait for a tragedy to give blood. You need to know that there’s people in the hospital who need it all the time. Cancer patients, car accident victims, people who have had heart surgery or other surgeries. It needs to be there for you and your family so you can ensure they can get back to their normal selves or get their lives saved.”
1 unit of blood is one donation. Somebody with leukemia could use up to 8 units during their treatment, so many donors are needed to save one life, and Ungar encourages people to be proactive and keep the clinic drop-ins frequent. Sandra Sleegers is a loyal donor and has gotten her entire family committed to getting involved.
“We’ve been donating as a family for years. For the past 24 years, we’ve donated without knowing anybody who needed blood, but just knowing that there is somebody in the community who could benefit from it. Now, we have that family connection, and it just makes it more personal.”
“My father-in-law would be dead by now if he hasn’t had blood.”
Individuals can donate whole blood once every 56 days. Platelet donors may give every 7 days, up to 24 times a year. That is why a slogan like Canadian Blood Services’ “it’s in you to give”, has never been more accurate.
Sandra’s daughter, Karen Sleegers, has been donating since she turned 17. It was her birthday wish to go in to a donor clinic and is a tradition she follows every year.
“You’re saving somebody else’s life. My father-in-law would be dead by now if he hadn’t had blood. He would’ve died. So, what a wonderful gift that somebody lived because you gave blood. You took that hour it needed.”
The Sleegers family hosts a family donor event every three months in honour of Sandra’s father-in-law. Their first donation event of the year will be January 17th at a Canadian Blood Services clinic (820 Wharncliffe Road S.). The blood received that day will be distributed to save hundreds of lives, within and outside of the London community.
C-B-S has set requirements for individuals who are interested in donating, such as a minimum body weight per height to ensure safe donations. Those who are interested in donating can just the C-B-S website to check eligibility.