Marissa Stryker, territory manager for Canadian Blood Services. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Blood donors are heroes to a Red Deer woman who was in a life-changing collision

Blood donor recruitment drive at RDC attracts 90-plus students

Carla Riley only survived a serious traffic accident in Red Deer because of many “heroes.”

Firefighters cut her out of her car, which rolled after being T-boned by a speeding vehicle on 67th Street. STARS paramedics transported Riley to Edmonton hospital, and surgeons rushed her into OR.

A blood donor also saved her life — which is why Riley chose to share her story Tuesday during a five-hour Canadian Blood Services campaign at Red Deer College to drum up more young donors.

“They told me I’d received 2 1/2 litres of blood,” she said, after the 2004 collision.

Riley had always been a blood donor, herself, but this life-altering experience showed her exactly why it’s so important.

“I tell people, ‘Come help save a life… You really are a hero when you make a blood donation.’”

Riley can see only out of one eye and still has breathing problems — her service dog helps her get up if she collapses — but she is thankful to be able to give back to the community.

“We’re really doing good today,” said the local woman, who was pleased 90 students had appointments for a blood typing event held at RDC to help raise awareness about the donation process — “and the day’s not done yet!”

Marissa Stryker, territory manager for Canadian Blood Services, was also please with the “fantastic” turn-out.

She said similar events are being held across Alberta, as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, targeting young people because the average blood donors are middle-aged.

If people start donating blood while still young, they will hopefully have many years of donations ahead of them, said Stryker.

She noted a drop in iron levels, or other health problems routinely take people out of the pool of donors, at least temporarily, so there is a need to regularly add new donors. “We need about 180 new donors a month.”

Red Deer’s Canadian Blood Services office also gets fewer blood donations than ideal — 200 collections a weekly instead of 240. But Stryker hopes this rises after the RDC campaign. “Students are very influential on social media, so hopefully they will be passionate about (donating) and talk about it a lot.”

According to Canadian Blood Services data, donated blood last no longer than 42 days. Somebody in Canada needs blood every 60 seconds, yet less than four per cent of eligible donors sustain the entire system. One in 2 Canadians are eligible to donate yet only 1 in 60 do.

Alex Wolter, a general studies student, plans to become a blood donor, saying “I am good with needles, I have tattoos…”

But her classmate Sam Gutierrez remains undecided after having had a bad experience with a nurse who couldn’t find his vein at the hospital. “I am curious as to my blood type,” he said — so that’s a first step.

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