Morning Star reporter Jennifer Smith gave blood for her first time at the beginning of the pandemic, and is urging others to join her in giving life and saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Morning Star reporter Jennifer Smith gave blood for her first time at the beginning of the pandemic, and is urging others to join her in giving life and saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Blood donors needed in Vernon, Armstrong, everywhere

Upcoming clinics have openings as summer boosts demand

When COVID-19 reared its ugly head last March, the world came to a halt. Restrictions hurt local businesses and the economy, as well as some major supports, including Canadian Blood Services.

Blood clinics became a ghost town, with fewer people signing up, many cancelling their appointments and distancing forcing minimal donors at a time.

I remember reading an article on our website about the need for donors at the beginning of the pandemic and realizing that this stuff was in fact, ‘in me to give.’

Having recently watched my dear friend/coworker Sue battle leukemia at just 39 years old (and she beat the crap out of it) I learned how important blood donations were. Sue had a lot, and without them, she might not be here with us today.

READ MORE: Army of support for Morning Star saleswoman battling cancer

I was always scared of donating blood and worried about being fatigued. But after seeing what Sue went through, I figured it was the least I could do.

So I went online, booked an appointment, and on April 29, 2020, I became a first-time blood donor.

Walking through the doors of the Trinity United Church (where there are monthly clinics) my hands clammed up as my nerves got the best of me. But soon I enough I was chuckling at the questionnaire, asking me things like, if I’d held a monkey recently.

A finger prick later and with a sticker that read, ‘1st time donor. Be nice to me, I’m new,’ and I was in the big chair. Registered nurse Chelsea Jackson was sweet and patient with me. She assured me that people have fainted, but it happens less often now that they are told to eat a salty snack first.

It didn’t take long, somewhere between five and 10 minutes, before my blood bag was filled up.

Donor care associate Nadine Remington unplugged me and wrapped me up, while sharing her own story.

“My mom had a rare blood condition and she passed a month ago,” said Remington, of Penticton, whose mom had more than 100 blood transfusions. “I got two more years with my mom because of donors.”

Now Remington feels like every unit she collects was for her mom and she thanks donors who help keep all those with rare conditions alive, as well as those in emergent situations. Plus one donation ends up helping three people, as it is divvied into red blood cells, plasma and platelets.

Once bandaged, I was ushered to the snack station. That’s right, there’s goodies when you give blood. Cookies, Cheezies, juice, water, pretzels and other snacks are needed to keep your sugars up. The best part is, “There’s no quota, you can have whatever you like,” volunteer June informed me.

Since then, I’ve donated two more times, and have another appointment booked for September. But there’s an urgent need right now for more people to sign up and give.

There are currently 4,000 open appointments for eligible blood donors in B.C. needed to be filled by July 31. Dozens of those are right here in the North Okanagan: at Trinity United Church July 19-21 and 31, as well as Hassen Arena in Armstrong July 26 and 27.

An additional 23,000 blood donors are needed across Canada to replenish the blood inventory following a sustained rise in demand as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

While all blood types help patients, there is a specific need for donors with O-negative blood type. Donors with O-negative blood, the universal blood type, are part of a select group whose donations are compatible with everyone. During an emergency, when there is no time to check a patient’s blood type, O-negative is used.

“Attendance at collection centres is starting to slip as COVID-19 restrictions ease in many areas. Canadians are enjoying greater freedom after months of following COVID-19 safety measures, while hospitals are tackling a backlog of medical procedures,” says Rick Prinzen, Canadian Blood Services chief supply chain officer and vice-president of donor relations.

“There’s an immediate need for new and returning donors to fill all open appointments to meet demand and support patients’ needs this summer.”

Call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or book at blood.ca.

READ MORE: Canada’s oldest blood donor says its all gain, no pain after decades of giving


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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