COLUMN: Blood an easy, rewarding donation

Saturday Beat

I admit it, I was a little skeptical when my wife Mary, who volunteers and donates when the Canadian Blood Services clinic comes to town, asked me if I would go with her and “just try it.”

I wasn’t too keen on the whole stick-a-needle-in-me idea, or spending around an hour getting processed, or lying on a bed in front of strangers as my blood flowed into a bag.

It took a year for her to convince me.

Then it slowly seeped in how important it was to her, so with a little trepidation and a short debate with myself, I went to the clinic.

Turns out I needn’t have worried. I ended up knowing a fair number of people at the clinic, people I talk to on a regular basis, and had no idea they were donors.

What I thought would be an hour (or so) of uncomfortable medical practices turned into an hour of enjoyable socializing, interrupted only by a pin prick or two.

It was rewarding, and the fact that they pipe in Vancouver Canucks’ playoff games didn’t hurt, either. Now on my 14th donation (Mary is passed her 50th), every two months the phone rings reminding me of my appointment (CBS is now notifying donors via e-mail and even text messaging) and I look forward to going.

I now wonder why I took so long, and if you need a little encouragement to try it ask yourself this: If you saw somebody who was just in a car crash, would you help them? If you saw a co-worker injured on the job, would you rush to their aid? If you had a friend that had a critical illness and needed a blood transfusion, would you volunteer to donate?

Of course you would.

Which is why it makes so much sense to donate your blood on a regular basis because chances are, somebody you know will eventually require Canadian Blood Services to save their life.

It may even be you.

According to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll, 52 per cent of Canadians say they or a family member have needed blood or blood products like plasma for surgery or medical treatment.

Yet just two per cent of the country’s population, or 425,000 Canadians, are active donors, meaning that they have donated at least once in the last 12 months. One person can donate blood up to six times a year, improving the quality of life or even saving the lives of up to 18 people.

A single donation, which takes as little as one hour of your time, can save up to three lives.

To keep up with demand, Canadian Blood Services estimates it needs about 90,000 new donors each year to build a long-lasting and sufficient donor base, and as the summer and a string of long weekends near, demand for blood increases as regular donors become less available.

As donors go on vacation, things like cancer treatment, coronary bypasses, auto and other accidents, organ transplants and various surgeries don’t, so blood stocks drop drastically and people who desperately need transfusions can’t get them.

Blood is always in need. Cancer treatment requires up to eight units a week, and a car accident or gunshot victim needs up to 50 units. A liver transplant requires up to 100 units.

It’s a problem that can be solved with very little effort, and local businesses and organizations are also getting involved to help.

In 2010, employees from Nanaimo’s Pacific Biological Station rallied and donated 119 units of blood,  the best total in the city, as part of CBS’s Partners For Life program. City of Nanaimo and Coast Capital Savings employees were also recognized by CBS for their efforts in encouraging employees to donate.

Over the next three or four months, it will be more important than ever to keep Canada’s blood supply topped up.

If you have the time, simply call 1-888-236-6283 to set up an appointment or visit for more information.