Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Canadian Blood Services

I've been a regular blood donor for years. When I hear that only 4% of eligible Canadians give, I shake my head. It takes so little time and means so much to those who need it.

I was deferred for almost ten years due to high blood pressure but they called me back about six years ago due to a change in the rules. Last year, I gave my 75th whole blood donation (80 now) and so was invited to the annual awards banquet.

Just a word about whole blood versus platelets. Whole blood donors can give evary 56 days. I think the platelet donors can go every second week, so they rack up higher numbers of donations. On the other hand, while I give a unit of blood in less than ten minutes, they are hooked up to the machine for an extended period of time. In my opinion, they deserve every bit of recognition they are accorded. I don't have an option anyway. With my O Negative blood making me a universal donor, they won't let me five platelets.

By coincidence, Sandy's ex, Brian, and his wife Judy were attending and taking Sandy's parents as guests. Judy was being recognized for 200 donations. Once at the caruso club, Tom from the Freedom Riders showed up. He had given 150 times. Leo should have been there for 75 as well, but didn't know anyone else was going.

The Caruso Club is one of the finer venues in town. It was festooned with ballons and the hall was moderately full. CBS people representing the region (Northeastern Ontario and Nunavut, if you can believe that spread) made some speeches in both French and English. Then they called up each person present for their awards. The read a vignette on every person, provided earlier by the donor. Mine mentioned our premature kids and getting into the On-Neg baby donor program, as well as helping Mom with blood clinics in Timmins when I was a kid.

There was a hierarchy. Fifty and 75 donations got certificates, a handshake and a group photo. One hundred got all of the above but the certificate was framed. The 150's got all the above and two handshakes. Judy and the other 200's also got an individual photograph. Two people celebrating 400 got a standing ovation and nobody was quite sure what to do with the first bone marrow donor.

After the awards, we went through the buffet line and had some excellent Caruso food. The only limitation was that we were restricted to one piece of breaded veal. I even cheated and had dessert.

A significant announcement for regular donors was that the new computerized screening system was about to be introduced. Since screening is the longest part of my donation experience, anything to streamline this process is greatly appreciated.

Blood donors give the Gift of Life. I'm proud to be one and hope that anyone eligible who reads this and isn't an active donor gives it some consideration.

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